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Cyber News Rundown: Instagram Hack Baffles Users

Instagram Hack Baffles Users Hundreds of Instagram users have found themselves locked out of their accounts over the past week, with all methods of retrieving them having been removed as well. The episode began with many users noticing their accounts had been logged...

Crime and Crypto: An Evolution in Cyber Threats

Cybercriminals are constantly experimenting with new ways to take money from their victims. Their tactics evolve quickly to maximize returns and minimize risk. The emergence of cryptocurrency has opened up new opportunities to do just that. To better understand...

3 Cyber Threats IT Providers Should Protect Against

With cybercrime damages set to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, a new bar has been set for cybersecurity teams across industries to defend their assets. This rings especially true for IT service providers, who are entrusted to keep their clients’ systems...

Social Media Malware is Deviant, Destructive

We've seen some tricky techniques used by cybercriminals to distribute malware through social media. One common threat begins with a previously compromised Facebook account sending deceptive messages that contain SVG image attachments via Facebook Messenger. (The SVG...

Cyber News Rundown: Instagram Hack Baffles Users

Reading Time: ~2 min.

Instagram Hack Baffles Users

Hundreds of Instagram users have found themselves locked out of their accounts over the past week, with all methods of retrieving them having been removed as well. The episode began with many users noticing their accounts had been logged out and contact information changed, including email addresses with a .ru domain. Even though some users have been able to follow Instagram’s prescribed process to regain control of their accounts, many others hit roadblocks, frustration, and days of failed attempts.

Adobe Suite Receives Multiple Patches

Following Patch Tuesday, Adobe users found themselves on the receiving end of 11 total patches for Flash Player, Acrobat, and several other key programs. Most of the patches were related to remote code execution caused by improperly escalated access privileges. The company said it remains confident none of the flaws addressed were exploited before they were patched.

Millions Vanish in Indian Bank Hack

One of India’s largest banks announced that its systems had been hacked this week, with at least $14 million remaining unaccounted for. The largest chunk of funds were stolen with a cyberattack on the bank’s ATM servers that allowed hackers to simultaneously withdraw funds from ATMS in 28 different countries before transferring another couple of million dollars to a company based in Hong Kong. While officials are working closely with law enforcement to determine the attacker’s identities, it is very unlikely that they investigation will turn up anything of worth, judging by investigations of similar hacks in the past.

Finnish DDoS Attack Shuts Down Government Sites

On Sunday a handful of Finnish government sites became unavailable after a DDoS attack prevented users from logging into Suomi.fi, which handles identity verification for ministry-related sites. While some ministry sites don’t require the Suomi site for verification, this attack has prompted an increase in security measures used for sites that providing critical functions. Fortunately, the attack subsided after several hours and all affected sites were returned to normal by Sunday evening.

Fortnite Cheats Lead to Nothing but Infections

With Fortnite more popular than ever amongst the younger generation, a new wave of malicious “cheats” have been making their way around the internet hoping to entice young gamers with hopes of gaining advantages. Many of the available cheat tools offer free in-game currency, movement improvements, and even third-party downloaders for the game itself, all of which result in a malicious payload being installed on the computer while the user remains oblivious.

Crime and Crypto: An Evolution in Cyber Threats

Reading Time: ~6 min.

Cybercriminals are constantly experimenting with new ways to take money from their victims. Their tactics evolve quickly to maximize returns and minimize risk. The emergence of cryptocurrency has opened up new opportunities to do just that. To better understand today’s threat landscape, it’s worth exploring the origins of cryptocurrencies and the progress cybercriminals have made in using it to advance their own interests.

The FBI screen lock

Source: @DavidSGingras on Twitter

Many readers may remember the infamous FBI lock malware that would pop up and prevent users from using their computer at startup. The malware presented the (false) claim that the victim had downloaded copyrighted material illegally or had watched pornography.

This was a common and successful scam that made millions globally by localizing the “official” police entity in order to legitimize the threat. The money it made was transferred via Ukash and MoneyPak, which were essentially gift cards available at local convenience stores that could be loaded with specified amounts of cash. Victims would enter the pin on the back of the card to pay the criminals.

This method of collecting money wasn’t without risks for criminals, however. If enough victims reported the scam to law enforcement, they would try to find and identify those responsible (attention criminals obviously tried to avoid).

Bitcoin and Silk Road

While the Ukash and MoneyPack scams were still alive and well, another popular and anonymous black market called Silk Road was experimenting with Bitcoin as a payment system.

Silk Road was essentially an underground market on the encrypted dark web for goods otherwise illegal or extremely difficult to purchase in most countries. The site’s buyers and sellers remained effectively anonymous to one another and were almost impossible to track. For years this marketplace thrived and proved the efficacy of Bitcoin as a transactional system. Its success came to an abrupt halt in 2013, however, when the FBI seized Silk Road and arrested its founder.

The shutdown initially caused a nosedive in Bitcoin’s market price, but it quickly bounced back to surpass its value even at the height of the Silk Road.

So, what contributed to the shift?

Source: coindesk.com

Enter CryptoLocker

The first variants of Cryptolocker ransomware were seen in late September 2013. In terms of criminal business models, it was an instant success. Soon, many variants were infecting users around the world. Early editions accepted the still widely-used Ukash and MoneyPak as payment, but with a twist. Cryptolocker would provide a discount for Bitcoin payments. The proverbial Rubicon had been crossed in terms of cryptocurrencies receiving preferential treatment from cybercriminals. With ransomware rapidly rising to the top of the threat landscape, Bitcoin saw corresponding growth as fiat currencies were exchanged for it so ransoms could be paid.

Is Bitcoin Anonymous?

Not really. Since all Bitcoin transactions are recorded on a public ledger, they are available for anyone to download and analyze. Each time a victim pays a ransom, they’re given a Bitcoin address to which to send payment. All transactions to and from this address are visible, which, incidentally, is how the success of many ransomware campaigns is measured.

When a criminal wants to cash out Bitcoin, they typically need to use an exchange involving personal identifiable information. So, if a criminal isn’t careful, their victim’s Bitcoin wallet address can be tracked all the way to the criminal’s exchange wallet address. Law enforcement can then subpoena the exchange to identify the criminal. Criminals, however, are often able to keep this situation from unfolding by using tactics that prevent their “cash out” address from being flagged.

For a time, Bitcoin “mixers” offered to clean coins that were widely available on the dark web. Their methods involved algorithms that would split up and send dirty coins of varying amounts to different addresses, then back to another address clean, a process not unlike physical currency laundering. Yet, the process was not foolproof and did not work indefinitely. Once cryptocurrencies had gained significant legitimate adoption, several projects were started to search Bitcoin blockchain transactions for fraudulent activities. Chainalysis is one example.

Ransomware takes multiple cryptocurrencies

In the spring of 2014, a new cryptocurrency arrived. Dubbed Monero, it filled Bitcoin’s shoes, but without a public ledger that could be analyzed. Monero quickly became criminals’ most useful payment system to date. It uses an innovative system of ring signatures and decoys to hide the origin of the transactions, ensuring transactions are untraceable. As soon as criminals receive payment to a Monero wallet address, they’re able to send it to an exchange address and cash out clean, with no need to launder their earnings.

Source: Security Affairs

Monero started to see “mainstream” adoption by criminals in late 2016, when certain flavors of ransomware started experimenting with accepting multiple cryptocurrencies as payment, with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, Ripple, and Zcash among the most common.

The Emergence of CryptoJacking

Monero has proven useful for criminals not just because it’s private. It also has a proof-of-work mining system that maintains an ASIC resistance. Most cryptocurrencies use a proof-of-work mining system, but the algorithm used to mine them can be worked by a specific chip (ASIC) designed to hash that algorithm much more efficiently than the average personal computer.

In this sense, Monero has created a niche for itself with a development team that maintains it will continually alter the Monero algorithm to make sure that it stays ASIC-resistant. This means Monero can be mined profitably with consumer-grade CPUs, sparking yet another trend among criminals of generating money from victims without ever delivering malware to their systems. This new threat, called “cryptojacking,” has gained momentum since CoinHive first debuted its mining JavaScript code in September 2017.

The original purpose of crypto-mining scripts, as described by CoinHive, was to monetize site content by enabling visitors’ CPUs to mine Monero for the site’s owners. This isn’t money from thin air, though. Users are still on the hook for CPU usage, which arrives in the form of an electric bill. While it might not be a noticeable amount for one individual, the cryptocurrency mined adds up fast for site owners with a lot of visitors. While CoinHive’s website calls this an ad-free way to generate income, threat actors are clearly abusing the tactic at victims’ expense.

We can see in the image above that visiting this Portuguese clothing website causes the CPU to spike to 100 percent, and the browser process will use as much CPU power as it can. If you’re on a newer computer and not doing much beyond browsing the web, a spike like this may not even be noticeable. But, on a slower computer, just navigating the site would be noticeably sluggish.

Cybercriminals using vulnerable websites to host malware isn’t new, but injecting sites with JavaScript to mine Monero is. CoinHive maintains there is no need block their scripts because of “mandatory” opt-ins. Unfortunately, criminals seem to have found methods to suppress or circumvent the opt-in, as compromised sites we’ve evaluated rarely prompt any terms. Since CoinHive receives a 30 percent cut of all mining profits, they’re likely not too concerned with how their scripts are used. Or abused.

Cryptojacking becomes 2018’s top threat

Cryptojacking via hijacked websites hasn’t even been on the scene for a full year, and already it has surpassed ransomware as the top threat affecting the highest number of devices. After all, ransomware requires criminals to execute a successful phishing, exploit, or RDP campaign to deliver their payload, defeat any installed security, successfully encrypt files, and send the encryption keys to a secure command and control serverwithout making any mistakes. Then the criminals still have to help them purchase and transfer the Bitcoin before finally decrypting their files. It’s a labor-intensive process that leaves tracks that must be covered up.

For criminals, cryptojacking is night-and-day easier to execute compared to ransomware. A cybercriminal simply injects a few lines of code into a domain they don’t own, then waits for victims to visit that webpage. All cryptocurrency mined goes directly into the criminal’s wallet and, thanks to Monero, is already clean.

That’s why you should expect cryptojacking to be the preferred cyberattack of 2018.

For more analysis of modern cyber threats, including cryptojacking, be sure to check out Webroot’s 2018 Threat Report. Questions? Drop me a line in the comments below.

3 Cyber Threats IT Providers Should Protect Against

Reading Time: ~3 min.

With cybercrime damages set to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, a new bar has been set for cybersecurity teams across industries to defend their assets. This rings especially true for IT service providers, who are entrusted to keep their clients’ systems and IT environments safe from cybercriminals. These clients are typically small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which are now the primary target of cyberattacks. This presents a major opportunity for the managed service providers (MSPs) who serve them to emerge as the cybersecurity leaders their clients rely on to help them successfully navigate the threat landscape.

Before you can start providing cybersecurity education and guidance, it’s crucial that you become well-versed in the biggest threats to your clients’ businesses. As an IT service provider, understanding how to prepare for the following cyber threats will reinforce the importance of your role to your clients.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malwarethat blocks access to a victim’s assets and demands money to restore that access. The malicious software may either encrypt the user’s hard drive or the user’s files until a ransom is paid. This payment is typically requested in the form of an encrypted digital currency, such as bitcoin. Like other types of malware, ransomware can spread through email attachments, operating system exploits, infected software, infected external storage devices, and compromised websites, although a growing number of ransomware attacks use remote desktop protocols (RDP). The motive for these types of attacks is usually monetary.

Why is ransomware a threat that continues to spread like wildfire? Simple: it’s easy for cybercriminals to access toolsets. Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) sites make it extremely easy for less skilled or programming-savvy criminals to simply subscribe to the malware, encryption, and ransom collection services necessary to run an attack—and fast. Since many users and organizations are willing to pay to get their data back, even people with little or no technical skill can quickly generate thousands of dollars in extorted income. Also, the cryptocurrency that criminals demand as payment, while volatile in price, has seen huge boosts in value year over year.

Tips to combat ransomware:

  • Keep company operating systems and application patches up-to-date.
  • Use quality endpoint protection software.
  • Regularly back up company files and plan for the worst-case scenario: total data and systems loss (consider business continuity if budgets allow).
  • Run regular cybersecurity trainings with employees and clients.

Phishing

Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons. Phishing is typically carried out by email spoofingor instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter personal information into a fake website, the look and feel of which are almost identical to a trusted, legitimate site.

Phishing is a common example of a social engineering attack. Social engineering is the art of tricking or manipulating a user into giving up sensitive or confidential information. The main purpose of a phishing attack can range from conning the recipient into sharing personal or financial information, to clicking on a link that installs malware and infects the device (for example, ransomware uses phishing as its primary infection route.)

Tips to combat phishing:

  • Ensure your employees and clients understand what a phishing email looks likeand how to avoid becoming a victim by testing your users regularly. Train them with relevant phishing scam simulations.
  • Hover over URLs in email to see the real address before clicking.
  • Use endpoint security with built-in anti-phishing protection.
  • Consider a DNS filtering solution to stop known phishing and malicious internet traffic requests.

Brute Force Attack

A brute force attack is a cyberattack in which the strength of computer and software resources are used to overwhelm security defenses via the speed and/or frequency of the attack. Brute force attacks can also be executed by algorithmically attempting all combinations of login options until a successful one is found.

It’s important to note that brute force attacks are on the rise. Earlier this year, Rene Millman of SC Magazine UK reported, “hacking attempts using brute force or dictionary attacks increased 400 percent in 2017.”

Tips to combat brute force attacks:

  • Scan your systems for password-protected applications and ensure they are not set to default login credentials. And if they’re not actively in use, get rid of them.
  • Adjust the account lockout policy to use progressive delay lockouts, so a dictionary or brute force combination attack is impossible.
  • Consider deploying a CAPTCHA stage to prevent automated dictionary attacks.
  • Enforce strong passwords and 2-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Upgrade your toolset. RDP brute force is a major ongoing issue. Standard RDP is highly risky, but secure VPN paid-for alternatives make remote access much more secure.

Leveraging Common Cyber Attacks to Improve Business

As an IT service provider, it’s important to remember that communication is everything. With clients, I recommend you define what exactly you’re protecting them against in an effort to focus on their top cybersecurity concerns. If you “profile” certain attack vectors using common attacks types, like ransomware, phishing, and brute force attacks, you’ll be able to clearly communicate to clients exactly what it takes to protect against their biggest risks and which technologies are necessary to remain as secure as possible.

Social Media Malware is Deviant, Destructive

Reading Time: ~4 min.

We’ve seen some tricky techniques used by cybercriminals to distribute malware through social media. One common threat begins with a previously compromised Facebook account sending deceptive messages that contain SVG image attachments via Facebook Messenger. (The SVG extention is an XML-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics with support for interactivity and animation.)

Cybercriminals prefer this XML-based image as it allows dynamic content. This enables the criminals to add malicious JavaScript code right inside the photo itself—in this case, linking to an external site. Users who click on the image find themselves on a website posing as YouTube that pushes a popup to install a browser extension or add-on or to view a video. There are plenty of red flags here like the URL clearly not being YouTube.com, as well as the fact that YouTube does not require any extensions to view videos.

Facebook messenger spreading an SVG image containing a harmful script

An example of a fake YouTube page with malicious browser extension popup

Worm-like propagation

If a you were to install this extension, it will take advantage of your browser access to your Facebook account to secretly mass-message your friends with the same SVG image file—like a worm, this is how it spreads. Victims don’t need to have very many friends for this tactic to be successful at propagating. For instance, if you have over 100 friends, then you only need less than 1% of your friends to fall for this for the scam for it to continue to propagate.

To make matters worse, the extension also downloads Nemucod, a generic malware downloader generally used to download and install a variety of other threats. Usually the go-to threat is ransomware given it’s proven business model for criminals.

Social media managers at risk

Those who manage social media accounts on behalf of businesses are particularly at risk of advanced malware and other cyberattacks. Earlier this spring, a new Windows trojan dubbed Stresspaint was found hidden inside a fake stress-relief app and likely spread through email and Facebook spam campaigns to infect 35,000 users, according to researchers at Radware who discovered the malware.

Stresspaint was rather deviant in the way it stole Facebook account credentials and logged into accounts looking specifically for data such as “each user’s number of friends, whether the account manages a Facebook Page or not, and if the account has a payment method saved in its settings,” according to Bleeping Computer.

Allowing cybercriminals to gain control of brand social media accounts can carry grave consequences such as reputation damage, loss of confidential information, and deeper access into an organization’s network. Last year, HBO was humiliated on their social profiles when the notorious hacker group OurMine breached several the network’s accounts and posted messages before the company finally regained control of their logins.

Source: u/marialfc on Reddit.

Crypto users targeted

Following the recent trend in malware, sophisticated variants of existing strains are now aimed at cryptocurrency users. A malicious Google Chrome extension called FacexWorm, which spreads through Facebook Messenger, was found to have morphed with a new ability to hijack cryptocurrency transactions made on a host of popular online exchanges, according to Coindesk. This further underlines the importance of exercising caution with the information you share on social media to avoid being a target, particularly if you are a user of cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency scams are another common threat that spreads throughout social media. Twitter is particularly notorious an outbreak of crypto scam bots that pose as high-profile tech leaders and industry influencers. Learn more about this type scam in my previous post.

Don’t let your guard down

Given the nature of social networks, many are likely to consider themselves to be in the company of friends on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, this assumption can be dangerous when you begin to trust links on social sites more than you would in your email inbox or other websites. For instance, a simple bot-spam message on Twitter was able to grant a hacker access to a Pentagon official’s computer, according to a New York Times report published last year.

It’s wise to be wary of clicking on all links, even those sent by friends, family or professional connections, as compromised social media accounts are often used to spread scams, phishing, and other types of cyberattacks. After all, just one wrong click can lead to an avalanche of cyber woes, such as identity theft, data loss, and damaged devices.

Have you encountered malware or other threats on social media? Share your story or ask a question in the comments below!