Threat Lab

Girl Scouts and OpenText empower future leaders of tomorrow with cyber resilience

The transition to a digital-first world enables us to connect, work and live in a realm where information is available at our fingertips. The children of today will be working in an environment of tomorrow that is shaped by hyperconnectivity. Operating in this...

World Backup Day reminds us all just how precious our data is

Think of all the important files sitting on your computer right now. If your computer crashed tomorrow, would you be able to retrieve your important files? Would your business suffer as a result? As more and more of our daily activities incorporate digital and online...

3 Reasons We Forget Small & Midsized Businesses are Major Targets for Ransomware

The ransomware attacks that make headlines and steer conversations among cybersecurity professionals usually involve major ransoms, huge corporations and notorious hacking groups. Kia Motors, Accenture, Acer, JBS…these companies were some of the largest to be...

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...

Strengthening cyber resilience in the UK through managed service providers

The UK government has released a National Cyber Strategy to help guide the country’s strategic approach to combating the proliferation of cyber threats. As part of this strategy, the UK government is looking to expand its regulations under the Network and Information Systems (NIS) to include managed service providers (MSPs). The government’s efforts follow a string of supply chain attacks targeting SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange Servers and the Colonial Pipeline. The UK government has highlighted a number of barriers to proper management of supply chain risks, including low risk recognition, limited visibility and insufficient expertise and tools to evaluate suppliers.

This strategic move by the UK government involves widening the scope of the NIS regulations to include MSPs. Original NIS regulations came into effect in 2018 to optimize cybersecurity offerings provided by companies within the essential services industries – water, energy, transport, healthcare and digital infrastructure. Expansion of the NIS regulations to include MSPs informs part of the UK government’s broader strategy to improve the country’s overall cyber resilience.

MSPs provide critical digital outsourcing services for IT departments and manage key business processes for many organizations. As such, MSPs play a vital role in promoting a digital-first economy. The UK government wants to ensure MSPs are fully prepared to manage ongoing cyber threats and protect the data integrity of their customers.

As the UK government moves forward with its plans, part of its proposal involves defining what an MSP does, from a commercial perspective. Under the proposed regulations, MSPs could be required to enact reasonable and proportionate security measures to protect their network and proactively manage the risks associated with services provided to customers. As of late, the NIS regulations that are being proposed could carry reporting requirements and heavy fines for those MSPs that don’t comply.

Embrace regulatory shifts with ease

We know adapting to these new and evolving requirements can be overwhelming.

Carbonite + Webroot are here to help. We offer a suite of business solutions to help keep your customers secure with reliable always-on protection, backup and recovery solutions designed to fit your needs.

Find the best solution for your business.

Social engineering: Cybercrime meets human hacking

According to the latest ISACA State of Security 2021 report, social engineering is the leading cause of compromises experienced by organizations. Findings from the Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report also point to social engineering as the most common data breach attack method.

Social engineering is a term used to describe the actions a cybercriminal takes to exploit human behavior in order to gain access to confidential information or infiltrate access to unauthorized systems and data.

What does social engineering look like?

Social engineering can take many forms. Some malicious actors might trick you into giving your password or financial information away. They may also try and convince you to provide remote access to your computer or mobile devices. Cybercriminals are looking for ways to gain your trust and take advantage of your curiosity by sending messaging that contains malicious links or downloads.

“One method of attack bad actors use quite frequently involves spoofing legitimate vendor support centers. Cybercriminals will pretend to represent these organizations by posting sponsored ads online or through promoted search results. They will offer assistance and sell expired or stolen products of the vendor they have impersonated. These cybercriminals prey on unsuspecting individuals who offer up their personal and financial information because they believe they are in contact with the real vendor,” says Tyler Moffitt, senior security analyst at Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies.

Some common social engineering tactics include:

  • Impersonating someone. An urgent request from a ‘friend’ or person you may know is a common tactic used by bad actors to compromise your information by attempting to gain your trust.
  • A legitimate-seeming request from a trusted source. A phisher may send an email, message or text that appears to be from a legitimate organization you interact with. According to the latest IDG report, phishing attacks are on the rise.
  • Oversharing personal information online. Some cybercriminals will gather intel through social networking sites like Twitter or Instagram and use that information to spoof various services or places you visit.

“Oversharing personal information online is especially dangerous for public figures or prominent employees. Cybercriminals conduct research online through a user’s social media channels to determine where a person visits and what activities a person participates in. Cybercriminals will then spoof their target with seemingly legitimate messages from that vendor with attractive offers. All they need is a click,” says Moffitt.

Avoid becoming a victim

To outwit social engineering attacks:

  • Slow down and remain in control. If you receive a message that conveys a sense of urgency to act, carefully consider whether you should respond.
  • Beware of what you download. Use a reputable web browser and remain conscious of what links you are accessing before clicking on them. Avoid downloading free applications that may possess remote access trojans that can compromise your device.
  • Delete any requests to provide financial information or passwords and report them as spam. Avoid responding to requests for help or offers to assist from individuals you don’t know.
  • Invest in security awareness training. Prevent your devices from becoming compromised by common attack vectors by investing in security awareness training. Testing yourself regularly with phishing campaigns can help you learn what to avoid.

As cybercriminals continue to exploit human behavior and take great strides to make their attack vectors appear harmless, it’s important to remain vigilant of how cyber threats continue to evolve.

Webroot offers a number of solutions to help you tackle these ongoing cyber threats. Experience powerful and reliable protection from Webroot that won’t slow you down. Whether it’s updating your antivirus software or learning to spot phishing traps with security awareness training, Webroot has you covered.

Find the best solution for your home or your business.

Considering cloning? Combat data bloat with file transfers instead.

If you own a computer that seems to have slowed to a crawl, you may be thinking about replacing it. But what about all the files on your old dinosaur? You may be thinking about transferring them to an external hard drive, a time-consuming and tedious process, or you may have heard of the far simpler process known as “cloning.”

Cloning is the act of creating a direct, one-to-one copy of a hard drive. Like the term suggests, cloning a computer will leave you with an identical copy of all the particular apps, files and settings on the device, which a user can then install onto a new one or keep as a backup in case something disastrous happens to the original.

Cloning is a pretty simple procedure and there are a lot of free tools to help you do it. But one problem it won’t help you solve is data bloat. Bloat is unwanted data that slows down a computer. This unwanted data can come in all types of different forms. It could be music, photos, games and apps, spreadsheets or text documents. One specific type of bloat, known as “software bloat,” occurs from successive updates to a computer program as they’re layered over one another time after time.

Generally, bloat is the result of the steady accumulation of more and more data as it’s added to your computer. Bloat eats away at the available memory on your hard drive and can lead to performance issues, most notably, slowing it down. If you’re experiencing frequent crashes, it may also be a problem with a corrupted file trying to execute.

You can’t clone the bloat away

Here’s where the problem with cloning comes in. Since a slow computer is a common reason for getting a new one, and cloning simply replicates all the data already stored on a device, it may not be the best strategy for getting existing files from an older computer onto a new one. Given that you’ve also probably updated your hardware, it won’t slam the breaks on your processing speeds immediately, but it’s an added burden right out of the gate.   

An alternative strategy is to back up your old device to the cloud and migrating files to the new one as needed. When done this way, all the old and unnecessary files you don’t think to update yourself aren’t taking up space on your shiny new laptop. When automatic cloud backup is installed, all the latest files from the initial computer exist online, ready to be pulled down to your device whenever a local copy is needed.

Transferring data piecemeal can also help identify anything problematic that’s causing a device to crash. Once isolated, it can be easier to uninstall or delete.

By storing the majority of your files in the cloud, you ensure free space remains on your hard drive log into the future. It’s less taxing on your device, and you’ll notice better performance as a result. There are also organizational benefits to having old files stored in one convenient location. If you’re combing for tax documents from previous years, for instance, you know where to grab them from your old drive. Without having to having to watch an old laptop inch along.

So, when it comes time to replace an old computer, think twice about cloning. Choosing cloud backup from Carbonite could help extend the life and improve the performance of that new device.

3 Reasons We Forget Small & Midsized Businesses are Major Targets for Ransomware

The ransomware attacks that make headlines and steer conversations among cybersecurity professionals usually involve major ransoms, huge corporations and notorious hacking groups.

Kia Motors, Accenture, Acer, JBS…these companies were some of the largest to be compromised by ransomware in 2021. These were mainly hit with well-known variants, sometimes unleashed by state-backed hacking groups. But it’s key to understand that no “Top 10” list of ransomware incidents paints an accurate – or at least comprehensive – picture of the impact ransomware played over the last year.

That’s because, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations are often hit the hardest by ransomware. Here are a couple factors to consider that might help reframe how we think about ransomware, who’s targeted and why small businesses can’t escape the gaze of ransomware groups.

  1. Attach Surface vs. Cybersecurity Resources

In our 2021 Webroot BrightCloud® Threat Report, we found overall infection rates to be rising fastest in the healthcare, non-profit and arts/entertainment/recreation industries. Schools, local governments and hospitals are some of the most commonly targeted types of institutions, accounting for some 2,400 breaches in 2020, according to the Ransomware Task Force’s (RTF) 2021 report.

We don’t typically think of these organizations as having excess budget earmarked for ransomware actors, so why are they so often targets? What makes them attractive to cybercriminals? It turns out, it’s exactly this lack of resources.

Often operating with limited IT budgets, hospitals, schools and local governments also typically run some of the most complex and difficult to secure networks. Spread out over multiple locations and responsible for hundreds or even thousands of devices – factors referred to as the “attack surface” in information security – make these institutions attractive targets. To make matters worse, a shortage of cybersecurity professionals and budget constraints mean they handle these challenges short-staffed.

As a result, public school systems, police departments and towns were among major compromises in recent years.

  • “Average” Ransomware Costs Can Be Misleading

Many security companies justifiably try to quantify the costs of ransomware year over year. While almost all agree both the number of attacks and the demanded ransoms are rising, these stats can obscure the real story.

Leaving aside the fact that they’re almost certainly underreported – businesses tend not to disclose ransomware incidents to avoid negative publicity and fines from regulatory agencies – a few high-profile incidents can drive up averages and distort the perceived cost to small businesses.

“I could never afford a $50 million ransom like the one hackers demanded of Acer,” the thinking goes, “so I must not be worth their time.” While understanding, this conclusion misrepresents the problem.

In fact, the median ransom demand in 2021, according to advanced findings from our upcoming threat report, was $70,000. Still potentially bankruptcy-inducing, this figure is within reach for a far greater number of businesses. Hence, a larger number of businesses are considered acceptable targets by criminals actors.

  • Ransomware as a Service Changed the Game

Maybe it was the case once, but malicious actors no longer have to be savvy behind a keyboard. Ransomware as a service (RaaS) is an increasingly popular business model among malicious actors where interested parties can buy ransomware “products” – malicious code meant to encrypt a target’s files – from a developer online.

According to the RTF, “In 2020, two-thirds of the ransomware attacks…were perpetrated by cyber criminals using a RaaS model.”

While supply chain attacks and major breaches of global corporations still require a good deal of technical sophistication, cracking the dentist’s office down the street no longer does. All that’s needed is a working knowledge of the dark web, a connection to a developer with loose morals and some startup capital to purchase the code.

This means casting a wider net with smaller ransomware demands threatens to ensnare more small and midsized businesses than before this business model emerged.

Securing small businesses in the crosshairs

Business owners and the MSPs that secure them can see how a set of factors are converging to increase the cybersecurity risks to businesses of all sizes. Luckily, there are a few steps, relatively easy to implement, that can help these organizations reduce their risk of falling victim to ransomware – or to limit the scope of any successful attacks.

These include:

  • Locking down Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP) – As the trends from 2021 emerge, it’s become clear that open RDP ports are the most common method of compromise among small businesses. They’re simply too easy for cybercriminals to discover and exploit, so lock them down.
  • Educate end users – The next common method of compromise is phishing attacks, independent of company size. But our research suggests that regular phishing simulations can dramatically reduce click-through rates among frontline users.
  • Install reputable cybersecurity software– What used to be the main method of defense against malware is now only a single method of defense, but it’s still a critical one.
  • Set up a strong backup and disaster recovery plan– Misconfigurations and user-enabled breaches are almost impossible to stop entirely. Having backups of critical files can reduce the pressure to pay a ransom and undermine the leverage cybercriminals have against a business.

Interested in learning more about ransomware and its effects on businesses? Download our eBook on the Hidden Cost of Ransomware.

Threat hunting: Your best defense against unknown threats

Threat actors are becoming more sophisticated, agile and relentless in their pursuit of stealing personal information for financial gain. Rapid and evolving shifts in the threat landscape require the knowledge and solutions to prepare and prevent threats that could spell disaster for organizations’ reputations and operations.

Organizations of all sizes remain at risk. Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and managed service providers (MSPs) are especially vulnerable to the stealth efforts of bad actors. With fewer financial resources, a ransomware payment demand could mean the difference between staying in business and closing up shop.

Government entities are also prone to attack. In December 2021, Belgium’s Ministry of Defence experienced a cyberattack exploiting the Log4j vulnerability that paralyzed the ministry’s computer network. Within the same month, Australia’s utility company, CS Energy, experienced a ransomware attack involving the well-known ransomware Conti.

Evolving cyber threats can be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean businesses have to tackle them alone. A robust security stack can help businesses stay protected and prepared. Establishing this level of resilience involves partnering with a provider that has human-powered threat hunting resources.

What is threat hunting?

Threat hunting involves actively searching for adversaries before an attack is carried out. Threat hunting involves the use of tools, intelligence and analytics combined with human intervention. Threat hunting centers around the proactive containment and identification of potentially damaging files before malicious vectors can cause severe damage to an organization’s operations.

What does a threat research analyst do?

“At Webroot, we focus our efforts on analyzing customer data. Our threat research analysts examine this data to determine if malicious files are present. Our analysts are constantly looking for files that possess certain characteristics that make up various types of malware. If we identify and determine that critical elements of a suspicious file are present, we classify and block them. Making determinations can be approached in different ways. One avenue of determination is carried out by creating isolated conditions to run the suspicious file to see what results it presents,” says Marcus Moreno, manager, threat research at Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies.

“Since our database is comprised of mass quantities of SMB and MSP data, we can continue to make determinations from a large and evolving data set. This is why SMBs and MSPs can derive value from partnering with Webroot,” adds Moreno.

Take your security stack to the next level

Cyberattacks will continue to be a concern for businesses, governments and individuals. Combatting cyber threats means adopting a cyber resilience approach. Cyber resilience is the ability to remain operational in the face of threats – whether human or maliciously-based. One important element of a solid cyber resilience strategy is to remain in a pre-emptive and proactive stance. Avoid costly ransomware payment demands, bolster customer confidence and minimize downtime for business operations by investing in a solutions provider backed by threat hunting capabilities.

Discover how Webroot’s solutions can protect your business.

Report: Phishing Attacks Sustain Historic Highs

Phishing attacks sustain historic highs

In their latest report, IDG and the pros behind Carbonite + Webroot spoke with 300 global IT professionals to learn the current state of phishing. We learned that 93% of IT executives are still concerned about phishing – and it’s no wonder, as companies averaged 28 attacks each over the previous 12 months.

Luckily, the report details how to fight back. With the right preparation and the right protection, companies can prevent all but 0.3% of attacks.

Phishing capitalizes on COVID

Phishing attacks have been part of the cybercriminal arsenal for years. But it’s only recently that phishing has flourished into the scourge it is today. That’s because cybercriminals have found success by targeting COVID-19 fears with their schemes.

In fact, phishing attacks spiked by 510% from just January – February 2020, according to the 2021 Threat Report. These increases leveled off by the summer, but phishing attacks still increased 34% from September – October 2020. Overall, 76% of executives report that phishing is still up compared to before the pandemic.

COVID-based tactics might purport to have new info on a shutdown, to share COVID stats or even suggest info from your doctor. But in each case, cybercriminals are looking to steal your information.

Who’s getting attacked?

IT departments are feeling the brunt of these attacks, with 57% of them targeted by phishing. Carbonite + Webroot Sr. Security Analyst Tyler Moffitt says, “Even if malware targets someone with lower-level access, the attack will move laterally to eventually find an IT administrator.”

He goes on to say that attackers can then linger for a week or more to find valuable data or steal a balance sheet that gives an indication of how much ransom to charge.

Because they often have important credentials, top executives and finance groups are also common targets. Public-facing customer service employees also offer easy access.

Consequences of phishing

75% of global IT executives say they’ve suffered negative consequences from phishing attacks. That includes:

  • 37% suffered downtime lasting more than a day
  • 37% suffered exposure of data
  • 32% lost productivity
  • 19% had to pay legal or regulatory fines

A layered approach to security

But it’s not all bad news. Yes, phishing is using new tactics to target businesses. But there are ways to fight back.

The report cites training as one of the most effective tools. But the frequency of training varies greatly, and 25% of those who use it don’t include phishing simulations. By using security awareness training that offers regular simulations, you can reduce phishing by up to 70%.

But even with great training, the report notes that people will still click some of the time. That’s why a multi-layered approach gives peace of mind that not all is lost if one person messes up.

No layer is 100% effective, but taken together many layers get very close. A defense in depth security posture utilizing DNS and endpoint detection as well as a sound backup strategy can give you confidence that you’re prepared to withstand even a successful phishing attack.

Ready to start protecting yourself and your business? Explore how Carbonite + Webroot provide a full range of cyber resilience solutions.

Download the IDG report.

Survey: How well do IT pros know AI and machine learning?

What do the terms artificial intelligence and machine learning mean to you? If what comes to mind initially involves robot butlers or rogue computer programs, you’re not alone. Even IT pros at large enterprise organizations can’t escape pop culture visions fed by films and TV.

But today, as cyberattacks against businesses and individuals continue to proliferate, technologies like AI and ML that can drastically improve threat detection, protection and prevention are critical. This is even more true as workforces continue to operate remotely in such numbers.

That’s why, for a few years now, we’ve been conducting surveys of IT professionals to determine their familiarity with, and attitudes toward, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). For the purposes of this report, we surveyed IT decision-makers at enterprises (1000+ employees), small and medium-sized businesses (<250 employees), and consumers (home users) throughout the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Australia/New Zealand. 

As a result, we learn about:

  • Baseline cyber hygiene, including what cybersecurity tools are in use and how they’re used
  • General experience with data breaches and attitudes toward the safety of their data
  • How many organizations use cybersecurity tools with AI components
  • Whether IT admins feel that AI actively contributes to the safety of their organizations or is marketing fluff

We titled this year’s survey Fact or Fiction: Perceptions and Misconceptions of AI and Machine Learning and expanded it to include professionals in the enterprise, mid-market organizations and private individuals. It’s one of the largest and most thorough reports on the topic we’ve put together to date and is packed with interesting findings.

Historically, we’ve seen significant confusion surrounding AI and ML. IT professionals are generally aware that they’re in-use, but struggle to voice how they’re helpful or what it is exactly that they do. In Australia, for instance, while the bulk of IT decision makers employ AI/ML-enabled solutions, barely over half (51%) are comfortable describing what they do.

Nevertheless, adoption of AI/ML-enabled technologies continues to rise. Today, more than 93% of enterprise-level businesses report using them. Overall, slightly less than half (47%) call increasing adoption of AI/ML their number one priority for addressing cybersecurity concerns in the coming year.

Here are a few other key takeaways regarding enterprise attitudes toward AI/ML:

  • Understanding is growing – But more education is still required, so vendors must focus on benefits of AI/ML in terms of the bottom line and an enhanced security posture.
  • AI/ML are key to repelling modern threats – Especially for remote workforces, advanced technologies are emerging as a key component for ensuring uptime and availability for clients.
  • AI/ML can differentiate a business – Buyers are looking to invest in their tech stacks to stay out of the headlines for suffering a breach. As understanding of AI/ML grows, more are looking for these capabilities in their cyber defenses.

For the mid-market and individuals, another theme has persisted through our studies: overconfidence.

Among IT professionals at businesses with fewer than 250 employees, almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents believe their organizations are safe from most cyberattacks. But 48% have also admitted to falling victim to a data breach at least once. Interestingly, despite their confidence in their cybersecurity, the same respondents also believe their security situation has been worse by COVID-19.

Other notable findings among small and mid-sized businesses include:

  • They’re beginning to recognize they’re targets – SMBs are catching onto the fact that cybercriminals pick off weak targets and realizing this fact’s implications for their supply chains.
  • Limited IT budgets must be spent wisely – Without the resources to hire full-time IT staff, it becomes critical that a security stack defends against all the most common forms of attack (and their consequences).
  • User education is key – If a business can’t spring for top-of-the-line cybersecurity solutions, educating users on how to keep from enabling breaches can go a long way towards building a strong defense with relatively little investment.

Consumers continue to report abysmal habits in their personal online lives. Less than half use an antivirus or other security tool. Only 16% report using a VPN when connecting in public spaces and 48% have had data stolen at least once. On the brighter side, constant headlines concerning corporations leaking consumer data have made consumers wary about who they give their data to and how much. This healthy skepticism is a good sign as the next large data breach is likely just around the corner.

Some valuable learning from the consumer sector, and how it bleeds over into the corporate sector, include:

  • Business breaches affect consumers’ data – And they know it. Consumers are wary of providing too much sensitive data to companies after being barraged by news of high-profile hacks and data breaches.
  • Consumers ARE NOT taking proper precautions – Fewer than half of home users have antivirus, backup or other cybersecurity measures in place. In all, 11% take no precautions online. This finding is especially relevant if remote workers are using personal devices for business.
  • Unsurprisingly, AI/ML knowledge is lacking – When paid IT professionals don’t understand the technology, it may not be practical to expect the average consumer to be. But consumers should do their research on the tech powering their protection before committing to a VPN, antivirus or backup solution.

For the report’s complete findings, including a breakdown of cybersecurity spending by business size, download the full report.

The 6 Nastiest Malware of 2021

Malware leaps from the darkness to envelop our lives in a cloak of stolen information, lost data and worse. But to know your enemy is to defeat your enemy. So we peered over the ledge leading to the dark web and leapt. The forces we sought are disruptors – without warning, they disturb our businesses and our connections to family and friends.

And darkness we found – from million-dollar ransoms to supply chain attacks, these malware variants were The 6 Nastiest Malware of 2021.

How malware disrupted our lives

These days, every major ransomware campaign runs a “double extortion” method, a scary prospect for small businesses. They steal and lock files away and they will absolutely leak data in the most damaging way if a ransom settlement is not reached.

Phishing continues to be key for these campaigns and it’s typically the first step in compromising a business for the nastiest malware.

This highlights the importance of user education – training users to avoid clicking these phishing lures or preventing them from enabling macros from these attachments are proven in stopping malware in its tracks.

While the list below may define payloads into different categories of malware, note that many of these bad actor groups contract work from others. This allows each group to specialize on their respective payload and perfect it.

This year’s wicked winners

Lemonduck

  • A persisting botnet with a cryptomining payload and more
  • Infects via emails, brute force, exploits and more
  • Removes competing malware, ensuring they’re the only infection

REvil

  • The Nastiest Ransomware of 2021 that made headlines with supply chain attacks
  • Many attempts to shutdown the REvil group have so far failed
  • Their ransomware as a service (RaaS) platform is on offer to other cybercriminals

Trickbot

  • Decade old banking and info-stealing Trojan and backdoor
  • Disables protections, spreads laterally and eventually leads to ransomware like Conti
  • Extremely resilient, surviving numerous attacks over the years

Dridex

  • Banking and info-stealing Trojan and backdoor
  • Spreads laterally and listens for domain credentials
  • Eventually leads to ransomware like Grief/BitPaymer/DoppelPaymer

Conti

  •  Longstanding ransomware group also known as Ryuk and likely linked to LockFile ransomware
  • TrickBot’s favorite ransomware
  • Will leak or auction off data if victims don’t pay the ransom

Cobalt Strike

  • White hat-designed pen testing tool that’s been corrupted and used for evil
  • Very powerful features like process injection, privilege escalation and credential harvesting
  • The customizability and scalability are just too GOOD not to be abused by BAD actors

Victimized by malware

The good news (I guess) is that last year’s average ransom payment peaked at $200,000 and today’s average is just below $150,000.

The bad news is that hackers are spreading the love and targeting businesses of all sizes. In fact, most victims are small businesses that end up paying around $50,000. Ransomware actors are getting better with their tactics, recruiting talent and providing a streamlined user experience.

The whole process is terrifyingly simple and for every one that gets shut down, two spring up to replace it. To top it off, supply chain attacks are becoming a massive issue.

Protect yourself and your business

The key to staying safe is a layered approach to cybersecurity backed up by a cyber resilience strategy. Here are tips from our experts.

Strategies for business continuity

  • Lock down Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP)
  • Educate end users
  • Install reputable cybersecurity software
  • Set up a strong backup and disaster recovery plan

Strategies for individuals

  • Develop a healthy dose of suspicion toward messages
  • Protect devices with antivirus and data with a VPN
  • Keep your antivirus software and other apps up to date
  • Use a secure cloud backup
  • Create strong, unique passwords (and don’t reuse them across accounts)
  • If a download asks to enable macros, DON’T DO IT

Discover more about 2021’s Nastiest Malware on the Webroot Community.

Podcast: Can we fix IoT security?

For many U.S. workers the switch to remote work is a permanent one. That means more high-stakes work is being conducted on self-configured home networks. For others, home networks are simply hosting more devices as smart doorbells, thermostats and refrigerators now connect to the internet.

Security experts warn that while the internet of things (IoT) isn’t inherently a bad thing, it does present concerns that must be considered. Many devices come pre-configured with inherently poor security. They often have weak or non-existent passwords set as the default.

As our guest and host Joe Panettieri discuss, these are issues that would be addressed on corporate networks by a professional IT administrator. The conversation covers the issues of IoT and home network security both from the perspective of the average family household and what the age of remote work means for employees working on their own networks.

Security intelligence director Grayson Milbourne brings a unique perspective to the podcast. Having held senior roles in both threat intelligence and product management, Milbourne is acutely aware of what the threats security products come up against. He knows both the cyber threat landscape and the consumer internet security market, so he’s able to provide insightful advice for how tech-loving homeowners can keep personal networks powerful and protected. 

Milbourne suggests problems of IoT and home network security could be addressed with a cybersecurity version of ENERGY STAR ratings. A program could formalize current IoT security best practices and incorporate them into a standard consumers recognize.  

During this informative podcast, Panettieri and Milbourne discuss that idea and more cybersecurity topics related to IoT devices. They cover:

  • The difference between device security and the security of the app used to control it
  • How to leverage user reviews while researching IoT devices and what security concerns to check on before buying
  • Privacy and data collection issues, including why one of the most common IoT devices may be among the most intrusive
  • Configuring IoT devices to prevent them from joining rogue IoT zombie networks

Whether you’re an IT administrator trying to secure remote workers or just own a smart TV, there’s something in this conversation for you. Be sure to give it a listen.

We explored the dangers of pirated sport streams so you don’t have to

Coauthored by Dominick Bitting, Sr. Threat Research Analyst, and Colin Maguire, Web Content Specialist.

Manchester City win the Carabao Cup Final, many illegal streamers lose

The COVID pandemic has led to a surge in content consumption as people stayed home and turned to Netflix, Youtube and other streaming services for entertainment. Not everyone agrees with paying for the latest episode or album, however, and this rise has ran parallel with a rise in  digital piracy.

Piracy is widespread and – ethical issues aside – makes for an interesting case study from a threat research perspective. In terms of sports, European football is the most commonly pirated, making up more than a quarter of all illegal sports streams according to one recent study

There is a sizable online community that shares bootlegged movies, TV and live sports streams without copyright protection over HTTP/HTTPS. Sites streaming pirated sports, specifically the English football “free-to-view” sites, were the subject of an April 2021 Webroot study on the week of the Carabao Cup final game between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

This was not meant to be an exhaustive study, but rather focused on getting a snapshot of the dangers involved in spending 90 minutes illegally streaming a match online.

The sites we analysed

We analysed a total of 20 sites in the study, of which 12 “game sites” were analysed in greater detail for the duration of the Cup Final. 92% per cent of illegal streaming sites analysed by Webroot were found to contain some form of malicious content.

Site Ratings

Sites ranged from having a “trusted” Webroot Brightcloud® reputation score of 92 to an “untrusted” rating of 44. All sites at time of testing had a safe, zero detection rating in Virus Total except for one, “daddylive”, with a rating of 1/85.

However, when examined more closely, most hosting IPs were found to have hosted malicious content (such as some serious malware) in the past, and had connections to other high-risk IPs. Some of the sites caught our attention for leading to a massive amount of URLs. For instance, rojadirecta[.]me pulled 565 different URLs. We focused most of our attention on these suspicious sites.

Virustotal.com graph for hulkstreams. Contextual graphs such as these show the relationships between web hosts and dropped malware
Brightcloud’s Threat Investigator Showing Contextual Information for jokerstream

Insecure Sites

Most of the sites analysed were insecure and running HTTP. The lack of security on these sites means any personal data shared across the site’s connection is out in the open. While the more secure HTTPS isn’t always a guarantee a site is completely safe, the lack of certification and security protocol were red flags, making sharing details or sensitive information risky.

Malvertising/Dishonest links

Most of these sites (more specifically the advertising on these sites) use dishonesty and social engineering to fool users into opening links, enabling an action on their browser or downloading a file they never intended to. This is done using an array of tricks like fake “X” boxes on video overlays, false “notification enable” messages and outrageous promises and warnings.

Redirects

Redirects are not bad in and of themselves, but when links jump between a number of unrelated sites (e.g. sports to dating to bitcoin to online shopping) this is a definite red flag. And we observed it a lot on illegal streaming sites. This signals that the site or site network admins must constantly change what their links direct to as they introduce new URLs. The presence of zero-day (or brand new) sites is a related bad indicator when looking at any site and it’s connected IPs.

Types of threats we saw on pirated streaming sites

Bitcoin scams

“With cryptocurrency values soaring again, executable based cryptojacking has been on the rise.”
Webroot’s 2021 Threat Report

We observed targeted and localised bitcoin scams promising riches and asking users for banking details. The price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been booming over the last year, and the rise and fall of these prices affects cryptocrime levels. We observed convincing ads and websites that link directly to fake news sites or feature local(ised) celebrities and politicians selling scams.

An example of a bitcoin scam site that has been localised to appeal to users browsing with an Irish IP address
An example of a bitcoin scam site that has been localised to appeal to users browsing with an Irish IP address

This “Mirror” fake news page is clearly designed to copy the popular UK newspaper. It is a front for a “get rich quick” scam designed to gather users’ cash and personal details. Different versions of this scam have been observed localised for different countries. This was pushed on the vipleague[.]lc streaming site.

“Appearing on the ‘BBC Breakfast’ show, Bill Gates revealed that he invested substantial amounts of money. The idea was simple: allow the average person the opportunity to cash in…”
Text from one scam we witnessed

An example of a bitcoin scam site that has been localised to appeal to users browsing with a UK IP address
A fake AV scam claiming to have found threats on your machine.

Hijacked search results

Hijacking browsers allows cybercriminals to switch a user’s default browser and take over its notifications. This means different search results are served up or users can be spammed with junk notifications and explicit content. Even if users shut down their laptops, the changes will remain.

Notification hijacking

Users looking to watch a stream are also tricked into allowing notifications, which bombard them with explicit and extreme content, as well as scams and links to other malicious sites.

Users of Technoreels are asked to allow notifications to see a stream. This button does not need to be clicked to view content so the messaging is dishonest and those that allow the content will get constant notifications for porn, dating, scams and other content.
An example of spam browser notifications. This one localised to appear to German IP addresses.

Browser Hijacker

Links on jackstream. push users into installing a browser hijacker known as mysearchflow.com, which is blocked as Spyware/Adware by Webroot. Clicking on the stream causes a popup which asks to allow notifications. These particular notifications were pop-up ads appearing in the screen’s right corner that were very intrusive and not easy to disable.

Mobile Threats

All these sites supported mobile browsing and the advertising, social engineering and malicious content targeting mobile users, too. For instance, links pointed to fake mobile apps with privacy issues and useless in-app purchases ranging from £2.09 – £114.99. It’s important for users to note that many of these mobile apps can also be installed on PCs and are often difficult to remove. Here’s a mobile advertisement from hulkstreams.com that earns clicks by claiming a device is infected with viruses.

Figure 2 The initial false “Google” warning on Hulksteams pushing

We installed and ran this particular product. It turned out to be an example of fleeceware, a type of malware that tries to sneak excessive fees past subscribers. It had over 10 thousand downloads on the Google Play store already. The product offered in-app purchases ranging from £2.09 – £114.99 per item and has since been marked as malicious by our threat intelligence.

The sites we analysed. Starred sites indicate “game sites.”
hulkstreams.com*
jackstreams.com*
0eb.net*
jokerswidget.com*
strims.world*
livetotal.tv*
vipleague.lc*
fotyval.com*
footybite.com*
daddylive.co/*
elixx.me/schedule.html*hdstreamss.club/*
liveonscore.tv/
red.soccerstreams.net/
www.blacktiesports.net/soccerstreams/
www.hesgoal.com/
www.ovostreams.com/soccer-streams.php
www.sportnews.to/schedule/
www.sportp2p.com
Figure 3 After installation the app incorrectly advises that you have “several trojans” and then offers to “repair your device”. This is a front for pushing more bogus upgrades and charges.

Our advice

Since pirate streams operate outside the law, they often sell advertising space to entities that are also operating outside the law. Although we found some advertising from reputable vendors, we would not recommend visiting these sites for the good of your overall online safety.

We do recommend that, when browsing any site on the web, users update their software and operating systems, employ AV and anti-phishing detection, and double-check any links before clicking, especially when they profess to offer something that seems too good to be true.

We Finally Got Businesses to Talk About Their Run-ins With Ransomware. Here’s What They Said.

“It is a nightmare. Do all you can to prevent ransomware.”
 
– A survey respondent

Many businesses are hesitant to talk about their experiences with ransomware. It can be uncomfortable to cop being hit. Whether it’s shame at not doing more to prevent it, the risk of additional bad publicity from discussing it or some other reason, companies tend to be tight-lipped about these types of breaches.

By offering anonymity in exchange for invaluable quantitative and qualitative data, Webroot and professional researchers surveyed hundreds of business leaders and IT professionals about their experiences with ransomware attacks.

Perhaps the most surprising finding from our survey, and certainly one that presents broader implications for those involved, is that the ransom demanded by attackers is only a small part of the loss that accompanies these crimes. There are also lost hours of productivity, reputational suffering, neutralized customer loyalty, data that remains unrecoverable with or without paying a ransom and the general sense of unfairness that comes with being the victim of a crime.

Our ransomware report seeks to quantify these knock-on effects of ransomware to the extent possible. We looked at the value of a brand and how likely customers are to remain loyal to one after their data is compromised in a breach. We studied the relationship between the time to detection of the incident and its cost. We added up the labor cost spent during remediation.

But we were also interested in real people’s stories concerning their run-ins with ransomware. What advice would they give to those who may find themselves in their same position? Respondents talked about the inevitability of attack, the relief when frequent backups mitigate the worst effects of ransomware, the importance of a plan, and advised against the payment of ransoms.

Finally, we provide advice for defending against or at least reducing the disruptive impact of ransomware attacks. As a security company, it won’t be surprising that we recommend things like endpoint and network security. But it goes deeper than that. We stress the importance of empowering users with the knowledge of what they’re up against and implementing multiple layers of defense.

Most importantly – no matter how comprehensive or scattershot a business’s protection is – is that that it’s are in place before it’s needed. During the fight is not the time to be building battlements. If your organization has avoided the scourge of ransomware so far, that’s excellent. But IT administrators and other decision-makers shouldn’t count on their luck holding out forever.

Here are a few of the report’s most enticing findings, but be sure the download the full eBook to access all of the insights it delivers.

KEY FINDINGS

  • 50% of ransomware demands were more than $50k
  • 40% of ransomware attacks consumed 8 or more man-hours of work
  • 46% of businesses said their clients were also impacted by the attack
  • 38% of businesses said the attack harmed their brand or reputation
  • 45% were ransomware victims in both their business and personal lives
  • 50% of victims were deceived by a malicious website email link or attachment
  • 45% of victims were unaware of the infection for more than 24 hours
  • 17% of victims were unable to recover their data, even after paying the ransom

Maze Ransomware is Dead. Or is it?

“It’s definitely dead,” says Tyler Moffitt, security analyst at Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies. “At least,” he amends, “for now.”

Maze ransomware, which made our top 10 list for Nastiest Malware of 2020 (not to mention numerous headlines throughout the last year), was officially shut down in November of 2020. The ransomware group behind it issued a kind of press release, announcing the shutdown and that they had no partners or successors who would be taking up the mantle. But before that, Maze had been prolific and successful. In fact, shortly before the shutdown, Maze accounted for an estimated 12% of all successful ransomware attacks. So why did they shut down?

I sat down with Tyler to get his take on the scenario and find out whether Maze is well and truly gone.

Why do you think Maze was so successful?

Maze had a great business model. They were the group that popularized the breach leak/auction website. So, they didn’t just steal and encrypt your files like other ransomware; they threatened to expose the data for all to see or even sell it at auction.

Why was this shift so revolutionary?

The Maze group tended to target pretty huge organizations with 10,000 employees or more. Businesses that big are likely to have decent backups, so just taking the data and holding it for ransom isn’t much of an incentive.

Now think about this: those huge businesses also would’ve been subject to pricey fines for data breaches because of regulations like GDPR; and they’re also more likely to have big budgets to pay a ransom. So, instead of simply saying, “we have your data, pay up,” they said, “we have your data and if you don’t pay, we’ll expose it to the world – which includes the regulators and your customers.” Most of the time, paying the ransom is going to be the more cost effective (and less embarrassing) option. We don’t know if the Maze group invented this tactic, but they definitely set the trend, and a bunch of other ransomware groups started following it.

Other than the leak sites, did they do anything else noteworthy or different from other groups?

One of the bigger threat trends we saw in 2020 was malware groups partnering up for different pieces of the infection chain, such as Trojans, backdoors, droppers, etc. The botnet Emotet, for example, was responsible for a huge percentage of ransomware infections from various different groups. Maze, however, was pretty self-contained. We saw them working with a few other groups throughout 2020, but they had their own malspam campaign for delivery and everything else they needed in-house, so to speak. They were like a one-stop shop.

Do you think the move to remote work during the pandemic contributed to their success?

Absolutely, though you could say that about any ransomware group. Phishing and RDP attacks really ramped up when people started working from home. Home networks and personal devices are generally much less secure than corporate ones, and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to exploit a given situation for their gain.

If Maze was doing so well, why did they shut down?

Probably because they’d gotten too much attention. The more notoriety you get, the harder it is to operate. We see this with a lot of malware groups. They shut down for a while, either to lie low because the heat is on, or to just spend the money they’ve gotten from their payouts and enjoy life. Or, sometimes, they don’t lie low at all but just rebrand themselves under a new name. Either way, they tend to come back. For example, a ransomware variant called Ryuk went dark and came back as Conti. Emotet went away for a long time too and then came back under the same group name.

How can you tell when an old group has rebranded?

Unless they announce it in some way, the only way to really tell is if you can get a sample of the malware and reverse engineer it and look at the code. One of our threat researchers did that with a sample of Sodinokibi and discovered it had “GandCrab version 6” in its code. So, that’s an example of a rebrand, but it can be hard to spot.

Do you think Maze is done for good?

Not a chance. They attacked huge targets and got massive payouts. Most ransomware groups attack smaller businesses who are less likely to have strong enough security measures. Even the ones that targeted larger corporations, like Ryuk, still attacked businesses one-fifth the size of a typical Maze target. Now, the Maze group can relax and take a lavish vacation with all the money they got. But I’d be pretty shocked if they just abandoned such a winning business model entirely.

The verdict: Maze may be gone for now, but experts are fairly certain we haven’t seen the last of this virulent and highly successful malware group. In the meantime, Tyler advises businesses everywhere to use the lull as an opportunity to batten down their cyber resilience strategies by implementing layered security measures, locking down RDP, and educating employees on cybersecurity and risk avoidance.

Stay tuned for more ransomware developments right here on the Webroot blog.