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Unexpected Side Effects: How COVID-19 Affected our Click Habits

Phishing has been around for ages and continues to be one of the most common threats that businesses and home users face today. But it’s not like we haven’t all been hearing about the dangers of phishing for years. So why do people still click? That’s what we wanted...

Key Considerations When Selecting a Web Classification Vendor

Since launching our web classification service in 2006, we’ve seen tremendous interest in our threat and web classification services, along with an evolution of the types and sizes of cybersecurity vendors and service providers looking to integrate this type of...

4 Ways MSPs Can Fine-Tune Their Cybersecurity Go-To-Market Strategy

Today’s work-from-home environment has created an abundance of opportunities for offering new cybersecurity services in addition to your existing business. With cyberattacks increasing in frequency and sophistication, business owners and managers need protection now...

Ransomware: The Bread and Butter of Cybercriminals

Imagine a thief walks into your home and rummages through your personal belongings. But instead of stealing them, he locks all your valuables into a safe and forces you to pay a ransom for the key to unlock the safe. What choice do you have? Substitute your digital...

Unexpected Side Effects: How COVID-19 Affected our Click Habits

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Phishing has been around for ages and continues to be one of the most common threats that businesses and home users face today. But it’s not like we haven’t all been hearing about the dangers of phishing for years. So why do people still click?

That’s what we wanted to find out when we conducted our most recent survey. We checked in with thousands of office workers across seven different countries to get a global perspective on phishing and people’s individual click habits. Then we partnered with Dr. Prashanth Rajivan, assistant professor at the University of Washington, to gain a deeper understanding of phishing and those habits, as well as how things have shifted during COVID-19 in our new report: COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis.

In this blog post, we’ve summarized this comprehensive report and included tips for how to stay safe, but we strongly encourage you to check out the full writeup.

Why do people still click?

3 in 10 people worldwide clicked a phishing link in the past year. Among Americans, it’s 1 in 3.

According to Dr. Rajivan, what we need to consider is that human beings aren’t necessarily good at dealing with uncertainty, which is part of why cybercriminals capitalize on upheaval (such as a global pandemic) to launch attacks.

“People aren’t great at handling uncertainty. Even those of us who know we shouldn’t click on emails from unknown senders may feel uncertain and click anyway. That’s because we’ve likely all clicked these kinds of emails in the past and gotten a positive reward. The probability of long-term risk vs. short-term reward, coupled with uncertainty, is a recipe for poor decision-making, or, in this case, clicking what you shouldn’t.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip # 1

  • For businesses: Ensure workers have clear distinctions between work and personal time, devices, and obligations. This helps reduce the amount of uncertainty that can ultimately lead to phishing-related breaches.
  • For individuals: Hackers often exploit security holes in older software versions and operating systems. Update software and systems regularly to help shut the door on malware.

Has phishing increased since COVID-19 began

At least one in five people have received a phishing email related to COVID-19.

There’s no doubt that the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how we live and work. According to our survey, 54% of workers spend more time working from home than they did before the pandemic. With more people connecting to the internet outside of corporate networks and away from the watchful eyes of IT teams, it’s to be expected that cybercriminals would take advantage.

“[We’ve seen] massive spikes […] in phishing URLs targeting COVID-related topics. For example, with more people spending time at home, use of streaming services has gone up. In March alone, we saw a 3000% increase in phishing URLs with ‘youtube’ in the name.

– Grayson Milbourne, security intelligence director, Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText Companies

Regardless, the majority of people surveyed still think they are at least the same level of prepared or more prepared to spot phishing email attempts, now that they’ve spent more time working from home

“People are taking increased physical safety measures in the pandemic, including mask wearing, social distancing, more frequent hand-washing, etc. I think this heightened level of precaution and awareness could cause people to slightly overestimate their overall safety, including their safety regarding online threats.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip #2

  • For businesses: Know your risk factors and over prepare. Once you’ve assessed the risks, you can create a stronger data breach response plan.
  • For individuals: Stay on your toes. By being vigilant and maintaining a healthy dose of suspicion about all links and attachments in messages, you can significantly decrease your phishing risk.

People say they know better. Do they really?

81% of people say they take steps to determine if an email message is malicious. Yet 76% open emails and click links from unknown senders.

When we asked Dr. Rajivan why these numbers don’t line up, he said the difference is between knowing what you should do and actually doing it

“There are huge differences between knowing what to do and actually operationalizing that knowledge in appropriate scenarios. I suspect many people don’t really take the actions they reported, at least not on a regular basis, when they receive suspicious emails.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip #3

  • For businesses: Back up data and ensure employees can access and retrieve data no matter where they are. Accidents happen; what matters most is being able to recover quickly and effectively. Don’t forget to back up collaboration tools too, such as Microsoft® Teams and the Microsoft® 365 suite.
  • For individuals: Make sure important data and files are backed up to secure cloud storage or an external hard drive. In the case of a hard drive, make sure it’s only connected while backing up, so you don’t risk backing up infected or encrypted files. If it’s a cloud back up, use the kind that lets you to restore to a specific file version or point in time.

What’s the way forward?

All over the world, workers say that in order to be better prepared to handle cyberattacks, they need more education.

According to global respondents, more knowledge and better understanding is key for stronger cyber resilience. The top three things people everywhere said would help them better prepare themselves to handle cyber threats like phishing were: knowing which tools could help prevent an attack, knowing what to do if you fall victim to an attack, and understanding the most common types of attacks.

Dr. Rajivan points out that, if businesses are asking individuals to make changes to their own behavior for the greater safety of all, then they need to make it clear they are willing to invest in their people.

“By creating a feeling of personal investment in the individuals who make up a company, you encourage the employees to return that feeling of investment toward their workplace. That’s a huge part of ensuring that cybersecurity is part of the culture. Additionally, if we want to enable employees to assess risk properly, we need to cut down on uncertainty and blurring of context lines. That means both educating employees and ensuring we take steps to minimize the ways in which work and personal life get intertwined.”

– Prashanth Rajivan, Ph.D.

Tip #4

  • For businesses: Invest in your people. Empower your people with regular training to help them successfully avoid scams and exercise appropriate caution online.
  • For individuals: Educate yourself. Even if your company provides training, Dr. Rajivan recommends we all subscribe to cybersecurity-related content in the form of podcasts, social media, blogs, and reputable information sources to help keep strong, cyber resilient behavior top-of-mind.

Want more details on click habits and shifting risks during COVID-19?
Read our full report, COVID-19 Clicks: How Phishing Capitalized on a Global Crisis, to start building out your cybersecurity education today. And be sure to check back here on the Webroot blog for the latest in news in phishing prevention.          

Key Considerations When Selecting a Web Classification Vendor

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Since launching our web classification service in 2006, we’ve seen tremendous interest in our threat and web classification services, along with an evolution of the types and sizes of cybersecurity vendors and service providers looking to integrate this type of curated data into their product or service. Over the years, we’ve had the good fortune to work with partners of all sizes, from global networking and security vendors to innovative and dynamic start-ups across the world.

With the end-of-life of Broadcom’s Symantec RuleSpace OEM Web Classification service, we’ve received numerous inquiries from their former customers evaluating alternative solutions. Here we’ll outline the things to consider in a replacement. For more on why Webroot is poised to fill the gap left by the Broadcom, you can read the complete whitepaper here.

Your use case: how well does it align with the vendor?

Each use case is unique. Every vendor or service provider brings its own benefit to market and has its own idea about how their service or solution adds value for customers, clients or prospects. That’s why our adaptive business model focuses on consulting with partners on technical implementation options, spending the time to understand each business and how it may benefit from a well-architected integration of classification and/or intelligence services.

Longevity and track record

A key factor influencing change on the internet is innovation. Every service provider is continuously enhancing and improving its services to keep pace with changes in the threat landscape, and with general changes to the internet itself. As well as keeping up with this change, it’s important that a vendor brings a historical perspective to the partnership. This experience will come in handy in many ways. Scalability, reliability and overall business resilience should be expected from a well-established vendor.

Industry recognition

Fair comparative evaluations of web classification and threat intelligence providers are difficult to achieve. We can offer guidance to prospective partners, but it’s often more reassuring to simply see the strong partner relationships we have today. Many of these we’ve worked with for well over a decade. When evaluating a vendor, we recommend looking closely at current partners and imagining the investments each have made in their integrated solutions. This speaks volumes about integration performance and the quality of the partnership.

Technology platform

A classification or threat dataset is only as good its sources and the analytics used to parse it. Many companies offer classification and/or threat intelligence data, but the quality of that data varies significantly.

Threat Intelligence Capabilities

Not all our partners’ use cases require threat intelligence, but for those that do it’s critical they understand where their threat data comes from. There are now a great many sources of threat data, but again these are far from equal. Worse still, comparing source is often no simple task.

Ease of integration

As mentioned, every use case is unique. So are the platforms into which web classification, malware detection and threat intelligence services are integrated. It’s therefore crucial that a vendor provide flexible integration options to accommodate any pioneering partner, service provider or systems integrator. Simply providing data via an API is useful, but will it always deliver the performance required for real-time applications?  Delivering a local database of threats or classifications may help with performance, but what about new threats? Achieving a balance of flexible delivery, performance and security is crucial, so take time to discuss with potential vendors how they plan to deliver.

Phishing detection

Phishing sites are some of the most dynamic and short-lived attack platforms on the web, so intelligence sources must be capable of detecting and tracking them in real-time. Most phishing intelligence sources depend on manual submissions of phishing sites by end users. This is far from ideal. Users are prone to error, and for every 10,000 users who click on a phishing site only one will report it to an authority or tracking service, leading to massive under-reporting of this threat vector.

Category coverage: beware category overload

There are various approaches to classifying the web and different vendors specialize in different areas. In many cases, this is determined by the data sources they have access to or the markets in which they operate. Again, it’s important to evaluate the partners to whom the vendor is delivering services and to consider how the vendor may or may not add value to the partnership. 

Efficacy and performance

Efficacy is fundamental to web classification or threat detection capabilities, so it should be a core criterion when evaluating a vendor. Depending on the use case, false positives or false negatives may be the primary concern when making determinations. Potential vendors should be evaluated for performance in these areas and asked how they approach continuous improvement.

Reliability

Building any third-party service or solution into a product, platform or service entails risk. There’s always the chance the new dependency negatively affects the performance or user experience of a service. So it’s importance to ensure a vendor can reliably deliver consistent performance. Examine each’s track record and customers base, along with the use cases they’ve previously implemented. Do the vendor’s claims match the available evidence? Can current customers be contacted about their experiences with the vendor?

Scalability

In assessing vendors, it can be difficult to determine the level of scalability possible with their platform. It helps to ask questions about how they build and operate their services and looking for examples where they’ve responded to unexpected growth events that can help demonstrate the scaling capabilities of their platform. Be wary of smaller or upstart vendors that may have difficulty when their platform is heavily loaded or when called upon to grow faster than their existing implementation allows.

Flexibility

Some solutions may look technically sound, easily accessible and well-documented while a mutually agreeable business model remains elusive. Conversely, an agreeable business model may not be backed by the efficacy or quality of service that desired from a chosen vendor.

Feedback loops: making the best better

We’re often approached by contacts asking us for a “feed” of some kind. It may be a feed of threat data, malware information or classifications. In fact, many of our competitors simply push data for customers or partners to consume as their “product.” But this approach has inherent weaknesses.

Partnership: not just a customer relationship

As mentioned, we seek to build strong partnerships with mutual long-term benefit. Look for this approach when considering a vendor, knowing you’ll likely be working with them for a long time and fewer changes to your vendor lineup mean more time optimizing your products and services. Ask yourself: Who will we be working with? Do we trust them? How easy are they to get ahold of? These are critical considerations when selecting a vendor for your business.

Summary

We hope to have provided some food for thought when it comes to selecting an integration partner. To read the full whitepaper version of this blog, please click here. We’re always standing by to discuss prospective clients’ needs and to provide any possible guidance regarding our services. We’re here to help you craft the best possible solutions and services. Please contact us to take the next step towards an even more successful

4 Ways MSPs Can Fine-Tune Their Cybersecurity Go-To-Market Strategy

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Today’s work-from-home environment has created an abundance of opportunities for offering new cybersecurity services in addition to your existing business. With cyberattacks increasing in frequency and sophistication, business owners and managers need protection now more than ever.

MSPs are ideally positioned to deliver the solutions businesses need in order to adapt to the current environment. In this post, we’ll briefly summarize four ways to fine-tune your cybersecurity GTM strategy for capitalizing on the shifting demands of today’s market.

1. Build an Offering That Aligns with Your Customer’s Level of Cyber Resilience

A cybersecurity GTM strategy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Each customer has unique needs. Some operate with higher levels of remote workers than others. Some may have more sensitive data than others. And some will have lower tolerances to the financial impact of a data breach than others. So, understand the current state of your customer’s ability to adequately protect against, prevent, detect and respond to modern cyberthreats, and then focus on what aspects of cybersecurity are important to them.

2.  Leverage Multi-Layered Security

Today’s businesses need a cybersecurity strategy that defends against the methods and vectors of attack employed by today’s cybercriminals. This includes highly deceptive and effective tactics like Ransomware, phishing and business email compromise (BEC). These methods require a layered approach, where each layer addresses a different vulnerability within the larger network topology:

  • Perimeter – This is the logical edge of your customer’s network where potentially malicious data may enter or exit. Endpoints (wherever they reside), network connectivity points, as well as email and web traffic all represent areas that may need to be secured.
  • User – The employee plays a role when they interact with potentially malicious content. They can either be an unwitting victim or actually play a role in stopping attacks. This makes it necessary to address the user as part of your GTM strategy.
  • Endpoint – Consider the entire range of networked devices, including corporate and personal devices, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Every endpoint needs to be protected.
  • Identity – Ensuring the person using a credential is the credential owner is another way to keep customers secure. 
  • Privilege – Limiting elevated access to corporate resources helps reduce the threat surface.
  • Applications – These are used to access information and valuable data. So, monitoring their use by those with more sensitive access is critical.
  • Data – inevitably, it’s the data that is the target. Monitoring who accesses what provides additional visibility into whether an environment is secure.

For each layer, there’s a specific tactic or vector that can form the basis of an attack, as well as specific solutions that address vulnerabilities at that layer.

3. Determine the Right Pricing Model

Pricing can make or break a managed service. Too high and the customer is turned off. Too low and there’s not enough perceived value. Pricing is the Goldilocks of the MSP world. It needs to be just right.

Unlike most of your other services, cybersecurity is a constantly moving target, which can make pricing a challenge. After all, a predictable service offering equates to a profitable one. The unpredictability of trying to keep your customers secure can therefore impact profitability. So, it’s imperative that you get pricing correct. Your pricing model needs to address a few things:

  • It needs to be easy to understand – Like your other services, pricing should be straightforward.
  • It should demonstrate value – The customer needs to see how the service justifies the expense.
  • It needs to focus on protection – Because you have no ability to guess the scope and frequency of attacks, it’s important to keep the services centered around preventive measures.
  • Consider all your costs – Cost is always a factor for profitability. As you determine pricing, keep every cost factor in mind.

4. Rethink How You Engage Prospects

Assuming you’re going to be looking for new customers with this service offering (in addition to selling it to existing customers), it’s important to think about how to engage prospects. The days of cold outreach are long gone as 90% of buyers don’t respond to cold calls3. Instead, today’s buyer is looking to establish connections with those they believe can assist their business. Social media sites have become the primary vehicle for a number of aspects of the buyer’s journey:

Build a Cybersecurity GTM Strategy that Works

The biggest challenge with bringing a cybersecurity service to market is meeting the expectations of the prospective customer. Demonstrate value from the very first touch through social media engagement and content. Meet their unique needs with comprehensive solutions that address all their security vulnerabilities. And finally, make sure your pricing is simple, straightforward and easy to understand.

Ransomware: The Bread and Butter of Cybercriminals

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Imagine a thief walks into your home and rummages through your personal belongings. But instead of stealing them, he locks all your valuables into a safe and forces you to pay a ransom for the key to unlock the safe. What choice do you have?

Substitute your digital space for your home and encryption for the safe and you have what’s known as ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware. After the initial infection, your files are encrypted, and a note appears demanding payment, which is usually in the form of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin because transactions can’t be stopped or reversed. Once your files are encrypted, you can’t access them until you pay the ransom.

The roots of ransomware can be traced back to 1989. The virus, known as PS Cyborg, was spread through diskettes given to attendees of a World Health Organization International AIDS conference. Victims of PS Cyborg were to mail $189 to a P.O. box in Panama to restore access to their data.

Historically, ransomware was mass distributed indiscriminately which happened to be mostly personal machines that ended up getting infected. Today, the big money is in attacking businesses. Most of these infections go unreported because companies don’t want to expose themselves to further attacks or reputational damage.

Criminals know the value of business data and the cost of downtime. Because they service multiple SMB customers simultaneously, managed service providers (MSPs) are now an especially attractive target. A successful attack on an MSP magnifies the impact of attacks and the value of the ransom.

Primary ransomware attack vectors – with more detailed descriptions below – include:

  • Phishing
  • Cryptoworms
  • Polymorphic malware
  • Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)
  • Targeted attacks

Want more on ransomware and how it’s advancing? Click here for a new Community post.

Phishing: Still the No. 1 Ransomware threat

Ninety percent of all Ransomware infections are delivered through email.  The most common way to receive ransomware from phishing is from a Microsoft Office attachment. Once opened the victim is asked to enable macros. This is the trick. If the user clicks to enable the macro, then ransomware will be deployed to the machine. Phishing remains a significant and persistent threat to businesses and individuals. The Webroot 2020 Threat Report showed a 640% increase in the number of active phishing sites since 2019.

Cryptoworms

Cryptoworms are a form of ransomware that able to gain a foothold in an environment by moving laterally throughout the network to infect all other computers for maximum reach and impact. The most spectacular incarnation of a cryptoworm was WannaCry in 2017, where more than 200,000 computers were affected in 150 countries causing hundreds of millions in damages.

Polymorphic malware

One of the more notorious forms of ransomware circulating today is polymorphic malware, which makes small changes to its signature for each payload dropped on machine – effectively making it a brand new, never before seen file. Its ability to morph into a new signature enables it to evade many virus detection methodologies. Studies show that 95% of malware is now unique to a single PC. This is largely due to the shape-shifting abilities of polymorphic malware code. Today, nearly all ransomware is polymorphic, making it more difficult to detect with signature-based, antivirus technologies.

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)

Ransomware has become so lucrative and popular that it’s now available as a “starter kit” on the dark web. This allows novice cybercriminals to build automated campaigns. Many of these kits are available free of charge for the payload, but criminals owe a cut (around 30% but this can vary based on how many people you infect) to the author for a ransom payment using their payload. Grandcab, also known as Sodinokibi, was perhaps the most famous to use this tactic.

Targeted attacks

Cybercriminals are moving away from mass distribution in favor of highly focused, targeted attacks. These attacks are typically carried out by using tools to automatically scan the internet for weak IT systems. They are usually opportunistic, thanks to the vulnerability scanners used. Targeted attacks often work by attacking computers with open RDP ports. Common targets include businesses with lots of computers but not a lot of IT staff or budget. This usually means education, government municipality, and health sectors are the most vulnerable.

Stay cyber resilient with multi-layered defense

As you can see, ransomware authors have a full quiver of options when it comes to launching attacks. The good news is, there are as many solutions for defending systems against them. The best way to secure your data and your business is to use a multi-layered cyber resilience strategy, also known as defense in depth. This approach uses multiple layers of security to protect the system. We encourage businesses of all sizes to deploy a defense-in-depth strategy to secure business data from ransomware and other common causes of data loss and downtime. Here’s what that looks like.

Backup

Backup with point-in-time restore gives you multiple recovery points to choose from. It lets you roll back to a prior state before the ransomware virus began corrupting the system.

Advanced threat intelligence

Antivirus protection is still the first line of defense. Threat intelligence, identification and mitigation in the form of antivirus is still essential for preventing known threats from penetrating your system.

Security awareness training

Your biggest vulnerability is your people. Employees need to be trained on how to spot suspicious emails and what to do in case they suspect an email is malicious. According our research, regular user training can reduce malware clickthrough rates by 220%.

Patch and update applications

Cybercriminals are experts at identifying and exploiting security vulnerabilities. Failing to install necessary security patches and update to the latest version of applications and operating systems can leave your system exposed to an attack.

Disable what you’re not using

Disable macros for most of the organization as only a small percentage will need them. This can be done by user or at the group policy level in the registry. Similarly, disabling scripts like HTA, VBA, Java, and Powershell will also stop these powerful tools that criminals use to sneak infections into an environment.

Ransomware mitigation

Make sure your IT staff and employees know what to do when a ransomware virus penetrates your system. The affected device should immediately be taken offline. If it’s a networked device, the entire network should be taken down to prevent the spread of the infection.

Want to learn more about how to protect your business or clients from ransomware? Here are five actionable tips for better defending against these attacks.