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Cyber News Rundown: Botnet Targets Brazil’s Banks

Brazilian Bank Traffic Rerouted by Massive Botnet A botnet containing more than 100,000 routers and other devices was recently spotted hijacking traffic destined for several Brazilian banks. The hijacking victims are then sent to one of at least 50 confirmed phishing...

Unsecure RDP Connections are a Widespread Security Failure

While ransomware, last year’s dominant threat, has taken a backseat to cryptomining attacks in 2018, it has by no means disappeared. Instead, ransomware has become a more targeted business model for cybercriminals, with unsecured remote desktop protocol (RDP)...

EICAR – The Most Common False Positive in the World

If you saw a file called eicar.com on your computer, you might think it was malware. But, you would be wrong. Readers, if you haven’t yet met the EICAR test file, allow me to introduce you to it. If you have used the EICAR test file, let’s get a bit cozier with it. If...

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...

Cyber News Rundown: Botnet Targets Brazil’s Banks

Reading Time: ~2 min.

Brazilian Bank Traffic Rerouted by Massive Botnet

A botnet containing more than 100,000 routers and other devices was recently spotted hijacking traffic destined for several Brazilian banks. The hijacking victims are then sent to one of at least 50 confirmed phishing sites that will attempt to steal any information the user will provide. Backing this ever-growing botnet are a small collection of tools used to brute-force weak passwords and continue to search for other devices with poor security.

Cyber Attack Shuts Down Canadian Restaurants

A major Canadian restaurant chain announced several of their restaurant brands had suffered a ransomware attack that affected nearly 1,400 stores in recent days. While many of the IT systems were quickly taken offline to prevent further spread of the infection, customers were met with non-functioning payment systems or just closed doors. Fortunately, the company keeps regular backups and was able to restore their systems without paying a ransom.

High-Profile Instagram Accounts Being Hacked

Several high-profile Instagram accounts were hacked and held hostage recently, with some accounts being deleted even after a payment was sent. Though many victims have contacted Instagram multiple times regarding access to their accounts, some were sent automated responses while others regained control of their accounts without hearing from the company.

Google Chrome Cracks Down on Extensions

With dozens of new extensions being added to Google’s Chrome Web Store every day, it has become increasingly difficult for Google to police for malicious apps. That’s why, accompanying the release of Chrome 70, will be the ability for users to restrict browser extensions to a single site and limit the amount of permissions the extension has over the pages viewed. Additionally, Chrome has implemented 2-step verification for all developer accounts to curb the volume of hacked apps made available.

Port of San Diego Hit by Ransomware

It was revealed last week that the Port of San Diego, which controls over 34 miles of coastline, suffered a ransomware attack that temporarily knocked out their computer systems. Fortunately, most routine port operations remained able to function normally while systems were offline. There is still no information on whether the ransom has been paid or how the infection occurred.

Unsecure RDP Connections are a Widespread Security Failure

Reading Time: ~3 min.

While ransomware, last year’s dominant threat, has taken a backseat to cryptomining attacks in 2018, it has by no means disappeared. Instead, ransomware has become a more targeted business model for cybercriminals, with unsecured remote desktop protocol (RDP) connections becoming the favorite port of entry for ransomware campaigns.

RDP connections first gained popularity as attack vectors back in 2016, and early success has translated into further adoption by cybercriminals. The SamSam ransomware group has made millions of dollars by exploiting the RDP attack vector, earning the group headlines when they shut down government sectors of Atlanta and Colorado, along with the medical testing giant LabCorp this year.

Think of unsecure RDP like the thermal exhaust port on the Death Star—an unfortunate security gap that can quickly lead to catastrophe if properly exploited. Organizations are inadequately setting up remote desktop solutions, leaving their environment wide open for criminals to penetrate with brute force tools. Cybercriminals can easily find and target these organizations by scanning for open RPD connections using engines like Shodan. Even lesser-skilled criminals can simply buy RDP access to already-hacked machines on the dark web.

Once a criminal has desktop access to a corporate computer or server, it’s essentially game over from a security standpoint. An attacker with access can then easily disable endpoint protection or leverage exploits to verify their malicious payloads will execute. There are a variety of payload options available to the criminal for extracting profit from the victim as well.

Common RDP-enabled threats

Ransomware is the most obvious choice, since it’s business model is proven and allows the perpetrator to “case the joint” by browsing all data on system or shared drives to determine how valuable it is and, by extension, how large of a ransom can be requested.

Cryptominers are another payload option, emerging more recently, criminals use via the RDP attack vector. When criminals breach a system, they can see all hardware installed and, if substantial CPU and GPU hardware are available, they can use it mine cryptocurrencies such as Monero on the hardware. This often leads to instant profitability that doesn’t require any payment action from the victim, and can therefore go by undetected indefinitely.

Source: https://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1379666-cheeto-lock

Solving the RDP Problem

The underlying problem that opens up RDP to exploitation is poor education. If more IT professionals were aware of this attack vector (and the severity of damage it could lead to), the proper precautions could be followed to secure the gap. Beyond the tips mentioned in my tweet above, one of the best solutions we recommend is simply restricting RDP to a whitelisted IP range.

However, the reality is that too many IT departments are leaving default ports open, maintaining lax password policies, or not training their employees on how to avoid phishing attacks that could compromise their system’s credentials. Security awareness education should be paramount as employees are often the weakest link, but can also be a powerful defense in preventing your organization from compromise.

You can learn more about the benefits of security awareness training in IT security here.

EICAR – The Most Common False Positive in the World

Reading Time: ~4 min.

If you saw a file called eicar.com on your computer, you might think it was malware. But, you would be wrong. Readers, if you haven’t yet met the EICAR test file, allow me to introduce you to it. If you have used the EICAR test file, let’s get a bit cozier with it.

If you ran this file through VirusTotal, 61 out of 62 antimalware scanners currently would detect the EICAR test file as if it were malicious. That’s because the EICAR file is actually a tool that was designed to help users verify their antimalware scanner is functioning properly. The EICAR test file is a harmless piece of code that most vendors have agreed to flag as if it was malicious. Essentially, it’s a false positive—by design—for your benefit. Some scanners detect it, some do not; neither outcome indicates that any scanner is better or worse than another.

If you have heard of EICAR, you may have seen it referred to as a “test virus,” but that’s inaccurate. Think of it more like the test button on a smoke detector in your home. The test button doesn’t simulate fire or smoke; it simply lets you know that the smoke detector is functional. The test button certainly doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the smoke detector. Similarly, the EICAR test file does not simulate malware, it just causes a scanner to demonstrate how it would handle a threat it detected (assuming the vendor has chosen to recognize the file as malicious, that is.)

Using the EICAR Test File

Now that you know more about EICAR, let’s talk about why, how, and when you might want to use it.

  1. Curiosity. The first time I used the test file, it was purely out of curiosity. What if I zipped the file up or changed its extension from .com to .xyz, and so on. Because the file itself is harmless, I could simulate any number of scenarios without risk to my computer or my data.
  2. Smoke test. The intended purpose of the test file was always to verify that your scanner was properly installed and that the scan engine was functional. Any time you install a new antimalware product, you can give it a quick test with the EICAR file to make sure it is functioning as designed (if the vendor support the file, that is.)
  3. Forensics. Malware writers often try to disable a scanner as soon as their malicious code gains a foothold on a given computer. If you periodically test your scanner and, one day, it fails to detect the test file, that could indicate of an infection. Keep in mind, it could also indicate that another layer of security blocked the file before it got to your scanner. The test itself is not conclusive and should only be considered as part of a bigger picture.
  4. Behavioral information. Between 1997 and 2004, I worked at Microsoft, ensuring none of their software releases were infected. I used 11 different virus scanners on each of my test machines (don’t try this at home). The testing was not about the quality of the scanners, but rather how they’d react in different situations to help me make decisions and gain greater knowledge. For example, antivirus scanners have default configurations that I needed to test and potentially modify. Back then, not all scanners scanned all extension types by default. A directory with EICAR test files that each had different extensions would allow me to determine if my scanner’s default configuration for file types needed to be adjusted. Once I made modifications, I had to test those as well. There were a variety of tests I could run involving filenames with punctuation or foreign language characters, too. Basically, I could test virus handling without needing am actual virus.

Note: At the Virus Bulletin conference in 1999 I presented the paper, “Giving the EICAR Test File Some Teeth.” If you’re interested in the breadth of test scenarios I explored, you can read the paper on the Virus Bulletin website.

Where to Find EICAR

You’d think the easiest way to get your hands on this file would be to download it straight from www.eicar.org, except that your antimalware scanner might block the download. To get around that, you’d likely have to temporarily disable your web protection—WHICH I DO NOT RECOMMEND. Instead, I’ll show you how to create the file yourself.

Here are the step by step instructions.

  1. Open Notepad.
  2. Copy the following string and paste it into Notepad:
    X5O!P%@AP[4\PZX54(P^)7CC)7}$EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!$H+H*
  3. Save the file and cross your fingers that your scanner doesn’t detect it on close.

Note: You could create the file in Microsoft® Word, but you’d have to save it as plain text. The test file must begin with the test string, and Word includes additional information in .doc and .docx files.

The file eicar.com, will run on older operating systems, but not on a 64-bit OS. When you run it on a compatible OS, the file will display this text.

eicar1

You can change the display message to anything you like. In the following example, I’ve replaced the word EICAR with my name.

eicar2

However, if you change it as I did above, it will no longer be a valid test file and should not be detected by your antimalware program.

At the 1999 Virus Bulletin conference, I asked researchers for EICAR-like test files to test script and macro detection. Although we still don’t have that, the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization (AMTSO) provides a set of security feature checks at www.amtso.org/security-features-check. Just be sure to remember that the security feature checks, like the EICAR test file, don’t indicate the quality of the product, but they can be used to ensure that certain features are functioning.

Questions? Comments? Let’s talk on the Webroot community forum.

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 malware that 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.