There’s no doubt we’ve all had to change our work habits as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Companies have had to adapt rapidly to smooth the transition to work from home. But companies will have to do more than adapt if they’re going to make cyber resilience a long-term priority going forward. As the edge of the network expands to include thousands of home networks and devices, it’s going to fall on leadership to establish a culture of cyber resilience, so employees internalize cyber security best practices instinctively.
What is a cyber resilient culture?
We asked Principal Product Manager Philipp Karcher what a cyber resilient culture is and what it takes to establish one at an organization. He said a culture of cyber resilience recognizes that everyone – not just IT – has role in cyber security. Karcher defines cyber resilience as the application of the same principles of IT resiliency so that employees:
Business benefits of security training
When businesses internalize this culture, they’re better prepared, better able to respond and better positioned to experience growth, Karcher says. Asking employees to devote time and effort toward security awareness is an investment in the future of the business.
On the other hand, businesses that don’t actively work toward a culture of cyber resilience are more vulnerable to cyberattack. Their employees are more likely to practice poor password hygiene, click on something they shouldn’t and make other mistakes, like misconfiguring access rights or accidentally sending someone the wrong file.
Cyber Resilience training delivers results
While IT resilience focuses on hardening data and applications, your overall cyber resilience as an organization depends equally on making users resilient. This should include a program of training and communication on security issues employees need to be aware of and education on how to properly respond to incidents.
We believe that when you look at the results of Webroot’s training program, it’s no wonder why it was recognized as a Strong Performer in The Forrester Wave™: Security Awareness and Training Solutions, Q1 2020. According to data from the Webroot Threat Research team:
Webroot also partnered with leading cybersecurity education content provider, NINJIO, to deliver engaging three-to-four-minute Hollywood-style micro-learning videos that feature updated COVID-19 content and encourage cyber resilient behavior, like identifying phishing emails and malicious URLs.
In addition to regular employee training, Karcher says businesses should publish regular communications on security topics in the form of emails, internal social media, posters and videos. Examples include coverage of real-world threats they need to defend against in their work and personal lives, and industry news about other businesses that were adversely affected by attacks.
Cyber resilience can only become a part of culture through sustained, long term engagement – not just annual check-box training.
Interested in implementing a culture of cyber resilience? Take the first step here.
Multiple Individuals Charged for Twitter Hack
Three people were charged with last month’s Twitter hack, which generated over $100,000 in bitcoin by hijacking high-profile accounts. Of the 130 accounts used to spread the Bitcoin scam, major names included Elon Musk and Bill Gates, who have been portrayed in similar past scams. The FBI was apparently able to identify the perpetrators through a known hacking forum offering Twitter account hacking services for a fee.
Kentucky Unemployment Faces Second Breach in 2020
Kentucky’s unemployment system suffered its second data breach of the year last week. The breach came to light after a user reported being able to view another’s sensitive information while attempting to review their own. Officials are still uncertain how the breach occurred or the exact contents of the information available to the person who reported the incident.
Canon Suffers Ransomware Attack
Several services related to Canon, including its cloud storage systems, fell victim to a ransomware attack that knocked them offline for nearly a week. In addition to the offline systems, more than 10TB of customer data were allegedly stolen and a ransom note pertaining to the Maze Ransomware variant was identified. A large number of Canon’s website domains were also taken offline, with an internal server error being displayed to site visitors.
Havenly Interior Design Breach
A data trove containing roughly 1.4 million Havenly user accounts were posted for sale on a Dark Web marketplace last week. It included personally identifiable information of customers including names, physical addresses and emails. The company’s official statement stated no financial information was lost in the breach. While Havenly has recommended all customers update their login credentials, the breach occurred well over a month ago, enough time for affected customers to be subjected to identity theft or attacks aimed at compromising further accounts.
Massive VPN Server Password Leak
The credentials for over 900 enterprise-level VPN servers from Pulse Secure recently appeared on a hacker forum known to be frequented by ransomware groups. The plain-text information contains enough information to take full control of the servers that are currently running a firmware with known critical vulnerabilities identified within the past two months. The vulnerability that allowed this breach, CVE-2019-11510, was identified and a patch was released late last year. Many of the attack’s victims had neglected to implement the patch.
Don’t expect cybercriminals to go easy during a hurricane. Quite the opposite, in fact. Just like they’ve used the coronavirus pandemic to launch COVID-related malware scams, hackers will capitalize on the names and news coverage of hurricanes to disguise attacks. That’s why now is a good time to review your cyber security posture and your overall cyber resilience strategy. We talked with Carbonite VP of Product Management Jamie Zajac about how to anticipate the types of adverse events that catch a lot of people and businesses off guard. With the right protection in place, you can maintain access to data during a hurricane – and all year round. You can start by knowing what to expect.
Get woke to data loss
When most people think of data loss, they think major disasters, like headline-generating storms and floods. Of course, it’s important to anticipate highly impactful outages. But these are far more rare than other causes of data loss. “It’s everyday scenarios that are really common. Like leaving a laptop on an airplane, dropping a phone in the river, or accidentally deleting a folder and having the recycle bin policies expire,” Zajac says.
Another cause of data loss is hardware failure. “Hardware has become more reliable,” Zajac says, “but you never know when a hard drive will fail, a computer will be dropped or a motherboard will crash.”
Since hardware has a finite lifespan, failure is inevitable. When you’re considering how to protect devices that store important data, Zajac recommends looking for a few key features:
- Continuous backup (so you’re capturing changes as you make them)
- Online file recovery (so you don’t have to wait to buy a new computer)
- Cloud failover for critical servers or disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)
An ounce of prevention
Whether it’s a lack of awareness, the complexity of systems or the perceived difficulty of deploying protection, too many people and businesses fail to protect themselves ahead of time. “We often don’t think to make cyber security and data protection a priority until it’s too late,” Zajac says. “For consumers and business alike, we see a ton of inquiries about how to get data off a hard drive that wasn’t backed up. That is way more time-consuming, expensive, error-prone and ineffective than having a full cyber resilience and protection plan in place.”
“It’s never worth the risk of being hacked,” Zajac says. “I’ve seen businesses struggle and even close when they lose data, or their brands suffer because hackers have stolen their data. As compliance requirements and privacy requirements evolve, more and more small businesses face these risks.”
Hurricane season is prime time for system outages. But it’s also a useful reminder to prepare for the unexpected. Here are three key steps you can take to form a strategy for dealing with annually occurring threats, according to Zajac.
- Anticipate your office being unavailable – Like the physical disruptions we’ve experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic, anticipate IT infrastructure becoming unavailable. Can you run systems in the cloud? Can you access a cloud backup quickly? DRaaS is a great solution for businesses susceptible to hurricanes.
- Back up everything, not just some things – Many people realize too late that they only chose to back up critical systems, and that one of those “second-tier” systems is also necessary to run the business. It’s better to have everything backed up than to be missing something. You can often save costs by tiering your backups or having different recovery objectives for different systems. But don’t skip backing up some systems.
- Test your backups – Know whether you can recover systems within the time required.
When it comes to hurricanes and weather-related risks, specific security-related concerns should also be considered. “It’s important to train people on the protocols for when they need to work remotely,” Zajac says. “Generally speaking, you should be training users on security best practices, whether they are remote or in the office. But people are more distracted and thus susceptible to phishing and social engineering when they are remote.”
If people need to work from cloud workstations, personal devices or laptops, make sure they have a security suite, such as cloud-based anti-virus and anti-phishing protection. Make sure you have security software that doesn’t require people to be in the office. For example, if you are relying on your firewall to block malicious websites, it won’t help employees who are off the network. Use DNS protection with roaming device security for these scenarios.
An all-of-the-above approach
Murphy’s Law dictates that you’ll probably experience the data breach you’re not prepared for. Any form of data loss can have bad effects. So, if you’re too narrowly focused on just one threat, consider all the potential adverse events you could experience.
“Hackers are a constant threat and can have really big impacts in terms of data loss, productivity loss, compliance requirements, regulatory fines, brand damage and more,” Zajac says. “A coffee spill is a constant threat,” she warns, “but the damage is typically isolated. You still don’t want to rely on someone re-creating all of your work if a coffee spill or other localized damage even occurs, especially if it is the CEO’s laptop.” Zajac continues, “A hurricane is a rare and often well-predicted event, but the impact can be catastrophic. You can’t wait for a hurricane to build a plan.”
The good news is that a competent IT consultant can help you build a strategy, and a good vendor can protect you against many of these adverse events in one fell swoop.
There’s no backup without recovery. But how do you know if your recovery process is sufficient? It should align with the objectives you establish before disaster strikes.
“On an endpoint, you can typically get very fast file backup and recovery so that you only lose minutes of data and all files are available online in a web interface for fast access,” Zajac says. “For servers, you need to tier systems into mission-critical applications and use a very low RPO solution, such as DRaaS. Non-mission critical infrastructure can withstand a few hours or days to get running again.” Zajac suggests doing an impact analysis. If a given system is offline, how much will it cost your business?
It’s not just devices that are worth protecting. Today, both personal and business users leverage the public cloud, like Microsoft 365 and Azure, for much of their storage and computing needs. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking cloud data is protected by the vendor. But this is not the case.
“Microsoft cannot tell the difference between accidental data loss and legitimate file deletions because the content is no longer relevant. It’s up to users and company admins to make this determination,” Zajac says. “Microsoft 365 credential attacks are on the rise. It’s only a matter of time before someone creates or spreads ransomware to Microsoft 365 native data. That won’t be a good day for anyone who doesn’t have a backup in place.”
Never let a good catastrophe, or the threat of one, go to waste. Use this hurricane season to make sure you have a robust cyber security and resilience plan. And not just for hurricanes, but for all the ways you can lose access to data.
Garmin Hit with WastedLocker Ransomware
Nearly a week after the company announced they had suffered a system outage, Garmin has finally admitted to falling victim to a ransomware attack, likely from the increasingly popular WastedLocker variant. As is the norm for WastedLocker, the attack was very specific in its targeting of the company (even mentioning Garmin by name in the ransom note) and took many of their services offline. Though Garmin has confirmed that no customer data was affected, they are still unsure when their services will return to full functionality.
Israeli Marketing Firm Suffers Data Breach
More than 14 million user accounts held by the Israeli marketing firm Promo were compromised in a recent breach. Subsequently, at least 1.4 million decrypted user passwords were found for sale on a Dark Web forum, along with 22 million records containing highly sensitive information. The company has since contacted affected customers and is pushing a forced password reset.
Netwalker Ransomware Targets U.S. Government Organizations
The FBI has released a security statement concerning Netwalker ransomware attacks, which have targeted both U.S. and foreign government agencies in recent months. Netwalker is known for exploiting remote desktop utilities to compromise major enterprise networks. It also offers ransomware-as-a-service to other cybercriminals. The best methods for blocking these types of attacks is setting up two-factor authentication (2FA) and creating offline data backups to protect in case of a successful breach.
Lazarus Hacking Group Branches Out to Ransomware
The North Korean state-sponsored hacking group Lazarus has added ransomware to their latest attacks. Unfortunately for the group, the ransomware variant they’ve chosen is inefficient at encrypting data, sometimes taking up to 10 hours to fully encrypt a single system. These attacks are similar to those targeting Sony Pictures in 2014 and those that affected the 2018 Winter Olympic games, both of which are suspected to have been conducted by state-backed actors.
Nefilim Ransomware Begins Publishing Dussman Groups Data
At least 14GB of data belonging to a subsidiary of Dussmann Group, a major German MSP, is being leaked by the operators of the Nefilim ransomware variant. The operators have confirmed they were able to obtain roughly 200GB of data from the subsidiary after discovering a still-unknown method for compromising the network. Customers affected by the leak have already been notified.
To try to fight the isolation and uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, a few weeks ago we began what we’re referring to as “Office Hours” on the Webroot Community. It’s meant to be a forum where users can come together and pose their COVID/cybersecurity-related questions to some of our experts, and we try to help however we can.
The quality of questions and value of the dialogue were high right off the bat. It’s proven to be an excellent reminder of the usefulness of the Community in general. Some of the questions were even topical and popular enough to warrant a deep dive.
“How can MSPs help their clients bounce back from these challenging times?” is a good example.
As the question suggests, it’s not all bad being an MSP right now. With many employees migrating to remote work, IT services are in high demand. That could explain why, according to a study by the RMM platform Datto, though about 40% of MSPs anticipate cutting revenue projections for the year, 84% still say it’s a good time to be an MSP.
There’s both opportunity and necessity in developing a plan to help small business clients stay afloat in a flagging economy. On the opportunity side, exceptional customer service can be a great way MSPs to stand out in an industry with typically tight margins. On the other hand, if an MSP’s clients’ tank, they will longer be around to need the MSPs services. So, the ability to be an IT advisor for clients’ through tough times is intimately tied to the success of the MSP themselves.
What follows are a few pieces of advice for doing that, but’s important to remember that there’s no stock solution for bouncing back as a business. Every client is unique and so are the pressures applied by the coronavirus and subsequent economic slowdown. But here are some generic tips for being your client’s go-to adviser for weathering the storm.
- Set-up a virtual ‘discovery’ meeting to discuss with them what their situation really is? This should be a (perhaps painfully) honest conversation about the state of the business and what obstacles stand on the way of then getting back to “business as usual.”
- Devise an agenda based on the services you provide today and the associated costs. Based on the client’s challenges (or strengths) what is affordable what can maybe be minimized? Has the business direction changed at all? Many SMBs may be looking to pivot considering COVID-19.
- Aim to be flexible (while remaining profitable) and willing to accommodate the period between their business restarting and establishing a new normal. Ask yourself if taking a slight hit in monthly income or margins is an acceptable sacrifice to make in order to help keep a potentially long-term client afloat?
- Next, work with a client to draw up a joint “Recovery Plan” with a timeline for scaling back up the workload and how you can specifically assist with their recovery. This may involve stressing the costliness of a data breach, downtime, and other ways your services help the clients bottom line suffering.
- Finally, schedule regular client account reviews (hopefully, you already have some version of these in place) to monitor technology-related pain points and assist with addressing them as reasonably as possible.
Economic recovery for small businesses will undoubtedly entail some tough decisions. But doing everything you can as an MSP to assist with that recovery by being proactive and establishing a common recovery plan will lead to a much stronger business relationship in the future. Not to mention establishing you as a trusted, reasonable business advisor for the life of the relationship. So, take advantage of the opportunity of helping your clients’ bounce back from this pandemic.
ATM Jackpotting Attacks on the Rise
ATM manufacturer Diebold Nixdorf has identified a malicious campaign that uses proprietary software to “jackpot” the machines. The attack requires malicious actors to breach the ATM manually and then use the software to force the machine to dispense cash at a rapid rate, known within the industry as jackpotting. While these attacks don’t seem to affect customer data or finances, the company is unsure how the attackers obtained the proprietary software used in the scam.
Ransomware Locks Down Telecom Argentina
Telecom Argentina is being extorted for over $7.5 million following a ransomware attack last week. The hacker group REvil is believed to be behind the attack, which may mean the stolen data is set to be posted on the group’s auction site. Officials are still unsure of how the intrusion occurred, but it’s likely to have stemmed from a compromised remote access point.
Maryland Health Services Breach Affects Thousands
More than 40,000 individuals may have had personal information leaked after a ransomware attack on Lorien Health Services in Maryland. The breach was discovered in June, but after the healthcare provider refused to pay the ransom the hackers began publishing the stolen data, which includes Social Security Numbers and other highly sensitive information. Lorien was quick to notify affected clients and had begun offering credit monitoring services to those affected within two days of the attack being confirmed.
University of York Data Breach
The University of York in the UK has learned of a data breach that occurred in May and could affect a considerable number of students and staff. The breach itself was enabled by a third-party service provider and contained personally identifiable information on an unknown number of victims. While there is little the university can do to contain this type of attack, it comes as another reminder of the importance of supply chain data security and the knock-on effect of such attacks.
Meow Attacks Target Vulnerable Databases
Dozens of unsecured databases from Elasticsearch and MongoDB were wiped in a new malicious campaign that seems to attack indiscriminately. Discovered within the last week, the Meow attacks as they’re known appear to use an automated script to overwrite any data in vulnerable databases and destroy any remaining data. This string of attacks may encourage stronger security policies among previously lax database administrators, but the lesson is costly for affected businesses.
Most people are familiar with phishing attacks. After all, they’re one of the most common forms of data breach around.
At their most basic, phishing attacks are attempts to steal confidential information by pretending to be an authorized person or organization. Standard phishing is not targeted. It relies on achieving a few successes out of hundreds or thousands of attempts. But because it’s so cheap to pull off, both in terms of effort invested and cost to conduct, even one person taking the bait make a campaign worth a malicious actor’s time.
But phishing has evolved. “Standard” phishing as we commonly think of it is now only a subsection of tactics carried out to achieve the same end: to swipe confidential information from an unsuspecting target in order to extract something of value.
To better be on guard across the diverse group of tactics that fall under the umbrella of phishing, users should be familiar with the ways these attacks are conducted.
If standard phishing is akin to trawling the High Seas to catch users indiscriminately, spear phishers are out for the trophy catch. Where most phishing attacks cast a wide net, hoping to entice as many users as possible to take the bait, spear phishing involves heavy research of pre-defined, high-dollar target—like a CEO, founder, or public persona—often relying on publicly available information for a more convincing ruse. When the target is sizeable enough, the CEO of a large, publicly traded company say, spear phishing is sometimes called ‘whaling.’
SMS-enabled phishing uses text messaging to delivering malicious links, often in the form of short codes to obscure the ultimate destination of a link, to ensnare smartphone users in their scams. The term is a portmanteau of SMS and phishing, and it’s an attractive method for cybercriminals because oh the high engagement rates for texts. According to some sources, SMS open rates are around 98% compared to 20% for email. Messages are often are often disguised as sweepstakes winnings, flash sales, coupon codes, and requests for charitable or political contributions.
Business Email Compromise (BEC)
One of the most expensive threats facing businesses today, business email compromise involves a phony email, usually claiming to be someone from within or associated with a target’s company, requesting a payment or purchase be made (often of gift cards). A “confidence game” according to the FBI, BEC attempts are often accompanied by a sense of high urgency to discourage critical thinking. Of the $3.5 billion the FBI estimates businesses lost to cybercrime in 2019, nearly half ($1.7 billion) was blamed on business email compromise.
Search Engine Phishing
In this type of attack, cyber criminals wait for you to come to them. Search engine phishing injects fraudulent sites, often in the form of paid ads, into results for popular search terms. These ads often promise amazing deals, career advancement opportunities, or low interest rates for loans. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Often, the only difference between the scam result and the one you’re looking for is a .com that should be a .org or a .org that should be a .gov. Be on the lookout for strange endings to URLs. It may be just a country-specific domain, but they can also be hiding something more sinister.
Protecting Yourself from Phishing Attacks
Protecting yourself from phishing attacks starts with knowing what’s out there. But while staying vigilant will keep most attackers at bay, no one can be 100% secure on their own. That’s why it’s important to use an antivirus that relies on up to date threat intelligence that can block these threats in real time as they are clicked. Also, it is imperative for businesses to train their users on the types of phishing attacks employees could fall for.
For more types of phishing attacks, real-world examples, and more tips for keeping yourself or your business safe from such attacks, download the 11 Types of Phishing Attack eBook.
Malware Discovered in Chinese Tax Software
As part of an official Chinese tax initiative, researchers have found multiple backdoors into mandatory tax software installed on all Chinese business systems. The new malware is called GoldenHelper, in a nod to the command-and-control domain tax-helper.ltd, and has been in active development and use since 2018. The latest campaign, dubbed GoldenSpy, is adept at avoiding detection and began within months of the old command-and-control servers going offline.
Texas Collections Company Suffers Data Breach
The Texas billing and collection company Benefits Recovery Specialists Inc. has announced that a breach containing data on over 250,000 customers occurred in April. The breach leaked personally identifiable information including Social Security Numbers, birthdates and physical addresses, that could all be used to launch additional attacks. Affected clients began receiving notifications about the breach in June, though the company has still not shared what malware was installed by the perpetrators.
Microsoft Fixes 17-Year-Old DNS Flaw
After nearly 17 years of being active and exploitable, Microsoft has finally identified and resolved a major vulnerability involving a worm-like transmission that requires no human interaction. With the help of a third-party security firm Microsoft was able to patch the vulnerability before it caused significant damage, though the time was certainly there for malicious actors to use the flaw to execute any number of malicious executables onto an endless string of compromised machines.
UK Ticket Provider Leaves 4.8 Million Logins Unsecured
A collection of roughly 4.8 million login credentials have been found in a leaked database belonging to a major UK ticker provider serving customers around the world. Among the credentials were domains belonging to several government agencies along with millions of consumer webmail users. The site has also been targeted in the past by attackers looking to deface the website and has been called vulnerable to SQL injection should attackers pursue that method.
Wattpad Database Compromises Millions of Users
Officials have been working over the past week to remediate a data breach that could affect over 200 million users of Wattpad. The compromised database was listed for $100,000 on a Dark Web sale site, but was later re-listed with no price. Its owners claim to hold records for over 271 million users. Wattpad has stated that, though personally identifiable information was revealed in the breach, no financial information was accessible since Wattpad doesn’t store it directly on its servers.
Summer is upon us. For some, summer is all about physical fitness. While exercise is essential to our overall well-being, we shouldn’t forget about our digital fitness, either. Just as our bodies serve our needs and help us go about our daily lives, so too do our computers and digital systems. And they deserve the time and effort it takes to make them as healthy as they can be. With that in mind, we talked with Webroot Security Analyst, Tyler Moffitt about digital fitness – and cyber resilience – for individuals and businesses. Be sure to add the following tips to your summertime fitness goals.
How is cyber resilience analogous to physical fitness?
Cyber resilience is all about having a robust security posture and making sure you take care of your digital presence with your internet-connected devices and accounts. These are all parallels with physical fitness in that it’s a life choice and not something you can just do only once in a while.
What are the things we can do to maintain healthy digital lifestyles?
Take care of devices and accounts, be it work or personal. Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA/MFA) whenever possible and never re-use passwords across multiple accounts. Using password phrases is one of the best ways to create long and unique passwords. Length is strength. Backing up and encrypting confidential data and using virtual private networks (VPNs) are great best practices as well.
What are the consequences of neglecting to maintain a healthy digital lifestyle for both individuals and businesses?
The risk of being infected with malware or having accounts breached skyrockets. This can then cascade to a whole organization, resulting in its data being held for ransom. Someone may even be held responsible and could perhaps even lose their job. There’s also a risk of criminals committing identity theft against you, which can be very costly.
Exercise is only helpful if it’s done on an ongoing basis. What ongoing practices should people be mindful of to protect themselves digitally?
A few things come to mind:
- Use reputable layered security
- Embrace user education
- Lock down remote connections
- Disable what you don’t use
- Do inventory and patch management
- Have multiple backups
- Educate yourself and, if applicable, your workforce
We’re supposed to undergo regular doctor checkups to ensure we’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Are there “checkups” people can perform to gauge the status of their digital health?
Education! Specifically, security awareness training. We recommend phishing simulations to test yourself and ensure you can tell the difference between a standard, benign email and a phishing scam. Also, educational courses help you understand the current threat landscape and how criminals try to trick you. Cyberthieves are always adapting their approaches as people become more educated, so it’s important stay informed about the latest tactics.
There’s only so much we can do on our own before we have to seek medical intervention from a doctor. What are the scenarios where people may want to reach out to an IT expert to address a digital health issue?
Whenever you’re unsure of something, ask – just like you would with a doctor. If you’re unsure of something going on with your body, you would ask the doctor for more info. The same holds true for your digital life. If you receive an email that you think might be phishing but are unsure, don’t just click and hope for the best. Immediately ask an IT professional who can advise you. And do the same when handling or storing sensitive information. Make sure the methods you use to transmit and store data are encrypted. For handling business data, find out what your organization’s data retention policy is and make sure you’re complying with it.
Carry it forward
Summer motivates us to get fit more than other times of the year. But just like physical fitness is best when it’s practiced year-round, so is digital fitness. Cyberthieves don’t take breaks at any time of year. And neither should you when it comes to practicing good cyber resilience behaviors.
Prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Webroot’s annual Threat Report highlighted a 640% increase in active phishing sites on the web. However difficult it may be to believe (or easy, depending on your outlook), things have gotten even worse since.
From fake anti-malware sites named for the virus (Really. See below.), to phony tracker apps that actually stalk users, to Netflix and Disney+ phishing scams that steal login data by taking advantage of a coronavirus-induced “streaming boom,” cybercriminals are getting crafty with COVID-19.
Threat analysts at Webroot have been tracking the rise in registered domain names with names including “covid,” corona,” and “coronavirus” since the outbreak began, noting that 2 percent of the more than 20 thousand newly registered domains containing those terms are malicious in nature. Files marked malicious that included the word “Zoom” grew more than 2,000 percent.
All these threats have arisen concurrently with an economic downturn that’s brought about fear, uncertainty, and the need to cut costs. Depending on the shape the recovery takes, we could be living with these unfortunate realities for some time. That means cybersecurity spending will inevitably be considered for the chopping block within many organizations. This is a bad idea for the reasons listed above and a great many more.
What’s needed, instead, is a greater investment in cybersecurity. As the World Economic Forum stated in an article entitled “Why cybersecurity matters more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic,” cybercrime flourishes during times of fear and uncertainty. We’re also spending more time online and relying on digital productivity tools as much as ever.
“Pressure will mount on business leaders to take action to cut costs and security spend may be highlighted for reduction,” say’s Webroot Sr. Director of Product Nick Emanuel. “However, the economics here are clear—cybercriminals are not cutting their budgets and are waiting to exploit weaknesses.”
And if organizations decide to preserve their remote workforces in order to promote employee safety and cut facility costs, as many tech companies are already doing, the cybersecurity landscape could be altered permanently.
“With the unprecedented shift from office to work from anywhere, it’s crucial that businesses review their remote working policies for data protection, as well as security, and be prepared for the variety of different work environments,” said Emanuel.
Cybersecurity in a Strange New World
So, what can you do to enhance cybersecurity for your business or clients? Rather than dropping products or sacrificing protection, develop a laser focus on these four principles:
- Automation—Companies must consider how AI and machine learning can assist with cybersecurity tasks. Adoption of these technologies is already high, but understanding remains low. When used effectively, they can reduce the need for high-paying, talent-scarce positions, freeing up the talent you do have to think strategically about larger business issues. Automated backup for businesses also reduces workload and guards against data loss, which can be costly in terms of loss productivity and potential fines.
- Education—Phishing is still the largest single source of data breaches, according to the latest Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report. Again, this is a quick way for malicious actors to install ransomware or to gain access to sensitive information, leading to downtime and fines. Luckily, users can be taught with some reliability to spot phishing attacks. Webroot’s research has found that, with ongoing training with a phishing simulator, click rates for phishing attacks can be reduced by more than 85%.
- Insurance—Data breaches are existential threats for many small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). According to IBM, data breaches for organization between 500 and 1,000 cost an average of $2.65 million. Normally, organizations would hedge against such astronomical threats. Cybersecurity shouldn’t be any different. The U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommends cybersecurity insurance both as a means of promoting additional protection in exchange for more coverage and encouraging best practices for better premium rates.
- Investment—Finally, businesses should invest wisely in their cyber resilience. This can be thought of as a holistic approach to cyber wellness that allows an organization to remain on its feet, even in the face of serious threats. Data security and data protection are essential components of cyber resilience. Data security entails endpoint security, sure, but also DNS filtering and security training for protection at the network and user levels. Data protection entails automated, encrypted backup and recovery for endpoints and servers to defend against ransomware, hardware failure, and device loss or theft. Together, these elements of cyber resilience reduce the likelihood of any one cyber setback being catastrophic for your business or clients.
MSPs and SMBs, rather than cutting costs by sacrificing their cybersecurity, should look to enhance it. While some of these steps may seem aimed at companies in a growth phase, they can actually improve the bottom line over the long run. After all, the costs of preparation pale in comparison to the cost of a breach.
Ragnar Locker Attacks Portuguese Energy Producer
It was recently confirmed that Energias de Portugal (EDP), one of the largest energy producers in the world, has fallen victim to the Ragnar Locker ransomware variant. The original attack took place in April but was only discovered in May after nearly three weeks of being active on their systems. After contacting affected customers, the company also revealed it was subject to a Bitcoin ransom of roughly $10 million to ensure the stolen data wasn’t publicly released.
Xchanging MSP Falls Victim to Ransomware
An MSP known as Xchanging, which primarily serves the insurance industry, was hit with a ransomware attack over the weekend that forced it to take many of its systems offline. Though the attack was largely confined to Xchanging’s systems and only affected a small number of customers, it is still unclear how long the infection was active before discovery. In a statement, the company says it’s working to restore access to customer operating environments as quickly as possible.
Fitness Firm Exposes Customer Info
Nearly 1.3 million customer files and photos were compromised after the fitness firm V Shred was breached, potentially affecting up to 100,000 clients. The data was stored on an improperly configured Amazon S3 bucket that was discovered as a part of a larger mapping project that had already located several similar leaks. While V Shred confirmed much of the data was publicly available, it originally denied that the dataset itself contained full names, addresses, and other highly sensitive personal information that could be used maliciously.
Magecart Group Surpasses 570 Victim Sites
Clubillion Casino App Leak Could Affect Millions
A database containing personally identifiable information on millions of users of the casino app Clubillion was compromised in late March. The breach was discovered and secured within five days, though heavy traffic to the site may have enabled the compromise of hundreds of thousands more individuals in that time. These types of apps are common targets of cyberattacks because they hold such large quantities of sensitive data that can be used for further attacks by leveraging the stolen data.
“What’s an evasive attack? At a very basic level, it’s exactly what it sounds like; it’s a cyberattack that’s designed to hide from you,” says Grayson Milbourne, Security Intelligence Director at Webroot, an OpenText company.
Based on Grayson’s initial explanation, you can imagine that evasive tactics are pretty common throughout cybercriminal activities. But they’re especially prevalent in the context of scripts. Scripts are pieces of code that can automate processes on a computer system. They have tons of legitimate uses, but, when used maliciously, they can be extremely effective and difficult to detect or block.
With Grayson’s help, we’ll talk you through some of the common script evasion techniques that criminals use.
Living off the Land Binaries (“LoLBins”) are applications that a Windows® system already has on it by default. Funny name aside, they’re extremely useful for attackers because they provide a way to carry out common steps of an attack without having to download anything new onto the target system. For example, criminals can use them to create persistency (i.e. enable the infection to continue operating after a reboot), spread throughout networked devices, bypass user access controls, and extracting passwords or other sensitive information.
There are dozens of LoLBins for criminals to choose from that are native to the Windows OS, such as powershell.exe, certutil.exe, regsr32.exe, and many more. Additionally, there are a variety of common third party applications that are pretty easy to exploit if present, such as java.exe, winword.exe, and excel.exe.
According to Grayson, this is one of the ways malicious hackers disguise their activities, because default OS applications are unlikely to be detected or blocked by an antimalware solution. He warns, “unless you have strong visibility into the exact commands that these processes are executing, then it can be very hard to detect malicious behavior originating from LoLBins.
Script Content Obfuscation
Like LoLBins and scripting overall, hiding the true content or behavior of a script—or content “obfuscation”—has completely legitimate purposes. But, in terms of malicious hacking, it’s pretty self-explanatory why obfuscation would lend itself to criminal activities. The whole point is not to get caught, right? So it makes sense that you’d take steps to hide bad activities to avoid detection. The screenshots below show an example of obfuscated code (top), with its de-obfuscated version (bottom).
Fileless and Evasive Execution
Using scripts, it’s actually possible to execute actions on a system without needing a file. Basically, a script can be written to allocate memory on the system, then write shellcode to that memory, then pass control to that memory. That means the malicious functions are carried out in memory, without a file, which makes detecting the origin of the infection (not to mention stopping it) extremely difficult.
Grayson explains, “one of the issues with fileless execution is that, usually, the memory gets cleared when you reboot your computer. That means a fileless infection’s execution could be stopped just be restarting the system. Persistence after a reboot is pretty top-of-mind for cybercriminals, and they’re always working on new methods to do it.”
The Windows® 10 operating system now includes Microsoft’s Anti-Malware Scan Interface (AMSI) to help combat the growing use of malicious and obfuscated scripts. That means one of the first things you can do to help keep yourself safe is to ensure any Windows devices you own are on the most up-to-date OS version.
Additionally, there are several other easy steps that can help ensure an effective and resilient cybersecurity strategy.
all applications up to date
Check all Windows and third party apps regularly for updates (and actually run them) to decrease the risk of having outdated software that contains vulnerabilities criminals could exploit.
macros and script interpreters
Although enabling macros has legitimate applications, the average home or business user is unlikely to need them. If a file you’ve downloaded gives you a warning that you need to enable macros, DON’T. This is another common evasive tactic that cybercriminals use to get malware onto your system. IT admins should ensure macros and script interpreters are fully disabled to help prevent script-based attacks. You can do this relatively easily through Group Policy.
unused 3rd party apps
Applications such as Python and Java are often unnecessary. If present and unused, simply remove them to help close a number of potential security gaps.
End users continue to be a business’ greatest vulnerability. Cybercriminals specifically design attacks to take advantage of their trust, naiveté, fear, and general lack of technical or security expertise. By educating end users on the risks, how to avoid them, and when and how to report them to IT personnel, businesses can drastically improve their overall security posture.
endpoint security that includes evasive script protection
Malicious hackers are always looking to come up with new ways to outsmart defenses. Grayson reminds us, “It’s up to all of us in cybersecurity to research these new tactics and innovate just as quickly, to help keep today’s businesses and home users safe from tomorrow’s threats. There’s always more work to be done, and that’s a big part of what drives us here at Webroot.”
To learn more about evasive scripts and what Webroot is doing to combat them, we recommend the following resources: