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How Ransomware Sneaks In

Ransomware has officially made the mainstream. Dramatic headlines announce the latest attacks and news outlets highlight the staggeringly high ransoms businesses pay to retrieve their stolen data. And it’s no wonder why – ransomware attacks are on the rise and the...

An MSP and SMB guide to disaster preparation, recovery and remediation

Introduction It’s important for a business to be prepared with an exercised business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan plan before its hit with ransomware so that it can resume operations as quickly as possible. Key steps and solutions should be followed...

Podcast: Cyber resilience in a remote work world

The global pandemic that began to send us packing from our offices in March of last year upended our established way of working overnight. We’re still feeling the effects. Many office workers have yet to return to the office in the volumes they worked in pre-pandemic....

5 Tips to get Better Efficacy out of Your IT Security Stack

If you’re an admin, service provider, security executive, or are otherwise affiliated with the world of IT solutions, then you know that one of the biggest challenges to overcome is efficacy. Especially in terms of cybersecurity, efficacy is something of an amorphous...

How Cryptocurrency and Cybercrime Trends Influence One Another

Typically, when cryptocurrency values change, one would expect to see changes in crypto-related cybercrime. In particular, trends in Bitcoin values tend to be the bellwether you can use to predict how other currencies’ values will shift, and there are usually...

How to avoid unwanted software

We’ve all seen it; maybe it’s on your own computer, or that of a friend, your spouse, child, or parent. Your home page has been changed to some search engine you’ve never heard of, there’s a new, annoying toolbar in your browser. Maybe you’re getting popup ads or have a rogue security product claiming you’re infected and asking you to buy the program to remove the infection. Even worse, you don’t know how it got there! Welcome to the world of Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs.) Chances are that these programs were inadvertently installed while installing software from sites that use “download managers” that add additional software to otherwise free downloads.

Many of these “download managers” and the additional applications they install use a Pay Per Install business model that is often used by unscrupulous individuals that use various techniques to trick you into clicking on their sites rather than the official download site for the software you’re attempting to download. These techniques include using advertisements on search engines and various Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques to get their sites to show up before the official downloads in search results. We’ve even seen fake image upload sites whose sole purpose is to direct you to a page that looks like an official download page for a program but uses one of these “download managers” instead.

So how do you avoid these “download managers?” It’s actually pretty simple. Whenever possible, download software from the software company’s official page (this is not always possible since some software is only available through third-party download sites.) As mentioned earlier, some of the most popular techniques to get you to install software using these “download managers” is through ads and SEO techniques on search engines, so we’ll show you how to locate the official download links in search results from Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

For this example we’ll search for the popular voice and video chat program Skype by searching for “download Skype.”

With Google it is rather easy to spot the official download link since the advertisements are clearly marked, and the first actual result is the official download link:



Let’s have a look at Bing next. Since both Skype and Bing are Microsoft products, the first two search results are for the official download links:



For a better example of Bing results, let’s search for Adobe Reader by searching for “download adobe acrobat reader.” This one is also pretty easy to spot since the ads are clearly marked.



Now let’s have a look at the results for “download Skype” on Yahoo. Once again, the ads are clearly marked and the first actual result is the official download link.



Looking at these search results, you’ll notice a few things in common: The top results are all ads, and none of the ads point to the official download links, and the first actual link that is not an advertisement is the official download link. While this will not always be the case, it is common, and fortunately the three search engines we used in this example all do a very good job at identifying their advertisements. Does this mean that all ads are bad? Of course not! But when looking to download free software, the ads may not be your best choice. Also pay attention to the URLs, the official downloads are all on “skype.com” domains, while all the adds point to other domains.

Now you should have a better understanding of how some of those unwanted toolbars and search pages ended up on your computer, that clicking on the top result on a search page may not be the best way to go about downloading free software, and how to find the official download links for software on some of the most popular search engines. Pass this information onto others, and maybe you’ll save yourself a trip to a friend or family member’s house to remove an unwanted toolbar.

Phishing For Bank Account Information

When you’re a threat researcher, you are always on the look out for anything that looks ‘phishy’, even if it’s on your own personal time. Today, I opened my personal email to find this:

Although the email looked very convincing, I don’t bank with Smile Bank so I knew something was up. Smile Bank is an actual bank based in the UK. The bad guys used a spoofed email address to make it look like it came from the legit Smile Bank domain smile.co.uk. If someone did bank with Smile Bank, I can see how they could easily be tricked. It’s the “Click here to proceed” link that gives the bad guys away. The link goes to a page hosted by pier3.hk, which is a legitimate domain, but appears to be compromised with a simple HTM page that is a redirect to the real malicious site. The redirect sends you here:

Once filled in and submitted, it then sends you here:

When this page is filled in and submitted, it sends you to the legitimate Smile Bank site:

In the background, I captured the network traffic to discovery all the input I entered being sent in plain text to the malicious URL:

In comparison, I went to Smile Bank’s real login screen. It was identical except for the fact it didn’t accept my nonsense for inputs:

This trick could easily be done with any large bank. Make sure to always be suspicious of any email claiming to be from your bank that threatens your account has been locked and insists that you need to enter your account information. Also, if the link to enter your account information isn’t to the URL of the bank it claims to be from, you know it’s malicious.

Beware of Malicious Olympic 2012 Android Apps

By Joe McManus

There are too many events happening at one time during the Olympics, which might tempt you to install an app for that. But be careful of what you install. Not all apps are what they appear to be. As an example let’s look at the app called “London Olympics Widget”.

More details:

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8 Tips for Filing Taxes Online Safely

By Mike Kronenberg

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Getting ready to file your taxes online — and doing it at the last minute? Well, cyber-scammers are ready for you. Thieves are schemers, and they’ve got a bag full of tricks to steal your identity. You might even be doing things to make their job easier. And if you use a PC at work to do your return,  identity theft could be as simple as a crook (or an unscrupulous coworker) digging around and finding sensitive files.

One might send you an e-mail that offers a quick refund — or a warning about a problem with your already-filed tax return. Maybe they’ll pitch you with an expert’s review of your tax return, or helpfully offer advice, asking for all the sensitive financial details you’d normally put on your return so they can “look up your account.”

Here are eight tips to stay one step ahead of these virtual pickpockets and protect yourself.

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Gamers: Fight the Phishers

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20090616-gamephish2-selltous_cropLast week, I posted a blog item that explained how gamers face a growing security threat in phishing Trojans — software that can steal the passwords to online games, or the license keys for offline games, and pass them along to far-flung criminal groups. We know why organized Internet criminals engage in these kinds of activities, because the reason is always the same: There’s a great potential for financial rewards, with very little personal risk.

So I thought I’d wrap up this discussion with some analysis of how the bad guys monetize their stolen stuff. After all, how do you fence stolen virtual goods? And knowing that, is there a way to put the kibosh on game account pickpockets?
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5 PC Gaming Threats and How To Beat Them

By Mike Kronenberg

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WoW keyloggerE3, the annual trade show for the computer and video games industry, kicked off in Los Angeles yesterday, not long after the unofficial start of summer on Memorial Day. These events got me thinking about what many students might do with their free time over the next three months. I imagine that for legions of young PC gamers, this could mean hour after blissful hour spent honing their skills as a blacksmith and earning gold in their favorite online fantasy universe. You can bet cybercriminals are imagining the same thing, too – and banking on it. 

In PC gaming, it used to be that hackers would seek to steal log-in information to take control of someone’s character for their own personal enjoyment. But they’ve figured out in-game currency translates into real-world money, and now many people log onto World of Warcraft or Lineage to find their account balances wiped to zero. 

To help keep hackers out — and hopefully make their summer a little less lucrative – I’ve outlined the most common tactics for infection during gaming and how gamers (of all ages) can avoid them. read more…