Reading Time: ~ 1 min.

Staying Cyber Resilient During a Pandemic

We’re all thinking about it, so let’s call it out by name right away. The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is a big deal. For many of us, the structure of our lives is changing daily; and those of us who are capable of doing our work remotely are likely doing so more than...

World Backup Day: A Seriously Good Idea

"Cold Cuts Day," "National Anthem Day," "What if Cats and Dogs had Opposable Thumbs Day"... If you've never heard of World Backup Day, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's another of the gimmicky "holidays" that seem to be snatching up more and more space on the...

5 Security Tips for Setting Up a New Device

The last thing you want to do when you get a new computer, mobile device, or tablet is spend a lot of time setting it up. But like any major appliance, these devices are something you want to invest a little time setting up properly. Often, they’re not cheap. And you...

5 Key Benchmarks for Choosing Efficient Endpoint Security

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

First and foremost, endpoint protection must be effective. Short of that, MSPs won’t succeed in protecting their clients and, more than likely, won’t remain in business for very long. But beyond the general ability to stop threats and protect users, which characteristics of an endpoint solution best set its administrators for success?

Get the 2019 PassMark Report: See how 9 endpoint protection products perform against 15 efficiency benchmarks.

Consider the world of the MSP: margins can be thin, competition tight, and time quite literally money. Any additional time spent managing endpoint security, beyond installing and overseeing it, is time not spent on other key business areas. Performance issues stemming from excess CPU or memory usage can invite added support tickets, which require more time and attention from MSPs. 

So, even when an endpoint solution is effective the majority of the time (a tall order in its own right), other factors can still raise the total cost of ownership for MSPs. Here are some metrics to consider when evaluating endpoint solutions, and how they can contribute to the overall health of a business. 

1. Installation Time

We’ve written recently about the trauma “rip and replace” can cause MSPs. It often means significant after-hours work uninstalling and reinstalling one endpoint solution in favor of another. While MSPs can’t do much about the uninstall time of the product they’ve chosen to abandon, shopping around for a replacement with a speedy install time will drastically reduce the time it takes to make the switch. 

Quick installs often also make a good impression on clients, too, who are likely having their first experience with the new software. Finally, it helps if the endpoint solution doesn’t conflict with other AVs.  

2. Installation Size

Few things are more annoying to users and admins than bulky, cumbersome endpoint protection, even when it’s effective. But cybersecurity is an arms race, and new threats often require new features and capabilities. 

So if an endpoint solution is still storing known-bad signatures on the device itself, this can quickly lead to bloated agent with an adverse effect on overall device performance. Cloud-based solutions, on the other hand, tend to be lighter on the device and less noticeable to users.

3. CPU Usage During a Scan

Many of us will remember the early days of antivirus scans when considering this stat. Pioneering AVs tended to render their host devices nearly useless when scanning for viruses and, unfortunately, some are still close to doing so today. 

Some endpoint solutions are able to scan for viruses silently in the background, while others commandeer almost 100 percent of a device’s CPU to hunt for viruses. This can lead to excruciatingly slow performance and even to devices overheating. With such high CPU demand, scans must often be scheduled for off-hours to limit the productivity hit they induce. 

4. Memory Usage During a Scheduled Scan 

Similar to CPU use during a scan, RAM use during a scheduled scan can have a significant effect on device performance, which in turn has a bearing on client satisfaction. Again older, so-called legacy antiviruses will hog significantly more RAM during a scheduled scan than their next-gen predecessors. 

While under 100 MB is generally a low amount of RAM for a scheduled scan, some solutions on the market today can require over 700 MB to perform the function. To keep memory use from quickly becoming an issue on the endpoints you manage, ensure your chosen AV falls on the low end of the RAM use spectrum. 

5. Browse Time

So many of today’s threats target your clients by way of their internet browsers. So it’s essential that endpoint security solutions are able to spot viruses and other malware before it’s downloaded from the web. This can lead to slower browsing and frustrate users into logging support tickets. It’s typically measured as an average of the time a web browser loads a given site, with variables like network connection speed controlled for. 

Effectiveness is essential, but it’s far from the only relevant metric when evaluating new endpoint security. Consider all the above factors to ensure you and your clients get the highest possible level of satisfaction from your chosen solution.

Cyber News Rundown: Data Dash

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

DoorDash Data Breach

Nearly five months after a breach, DoorDash has just now discovered that unauthorized access to sensitive customer information has taken place. Among the stolen data were customer names, payment history, and contact info, as well as the last four digits of both customer payment cards and employee bank accounts. The compromised data spans nearly 5 million unique customers and employees of the delivery service. DoorDash has since recommended all users change their passwords immediately.

American Express Employee Fraud

At least one American Express employee was fired after it was revealed they had illicitly gained access to customer payment card data and may have been using it to commit fraud at other financial institutions. Following this incident, American Express began contacting affected customers offering credit monitoring services to prevent misuse of their data.

Hackers Target Airbus Suppliers

Several suppliers for Airbus have recently been under cyber-attack by state-sponsored hackers that seem to have a focus on the company’s VPN connections to Airbus. Both Rolls-Royce and Expleo, European manufacturers of engines and technology respectively, have been targeted for their technical documentation by Chinese aircraft competitors. This type of attack has pushed many officials to urge for higher security standards across all supply chains, as both large and small companies are now being attacked.

Ransomware Law Passes Senate

A recently passed law mandates the Department of Homeland Security support organizations affected by ransomware. While focused on protecting students in New York state, the legislation follows 50 school districts across the U.S. falling victim to ransomware attacks in 2019 alone, compromising up to 500 schools overall. A similar bill recently passed in the House of Representatives, which is expected to be combined with this legislation.

Ransomware Targets Hospitals Around the Globe

Multiple hospitals in the U.S. and Australia have fallen victim to ransomware attacks within the last month. Some sites were so affected that they were forced to permanently close their facilities after they weren’t able to rebuild patient records from encrypted backups. Several offices in Australia have been unable to accept new patients with only minimal systems for continuing operations.

Why MSPs Should Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Security

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

“Antivirus programs use techniques to stop viruses that are very “virus-like” in and of themselves, and in most cases if you try to run two antivirus programs, or full security suites, each believes the other is malicious and they then engage in a battle to the death (of system usability, anyway).”

“…running 2 AV’s will most likely cause conflicts and slowness as they will scan each other’s malware signature database. So it’s not recommended.”

The above quotes come from top answers on a popular computer help site and community forum in response to a question about “Running Two AVs” simultaneously.

Seattle Times tech columnist Patrick Marshall has similarly warned his readers about the dangers of antivirus products conflicting on his own computers.

Click here to see 9 top endpoint protection competitors go head to head to see who’s most efficient.

Historically, these comments were spot-on, 100% correct in describing how competing AV solutions interacted on endpoints. Here’s why.

The (Traditional) Issues with Running Side-by-Side AV Programs

In pursuit of battling it out on your machine for security supremacy, AV solutions have traditionally had a tendency to cause serious performance issues.

This is because:

  • Each is convinced the other is an imposter. Antivirus programs tend to look a lot like viruses to other antivirus programs. The behaviors they engage in, like scanning files or scripts and exporting information about those data objects, can look a little shady to a program that’s sole purpose is to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
  • Each wants to be the anti-malware star. Ideally both AV programs installed on a machine would be up to the task of spotting a virus on a computer. And both would want to let the user know when they’d found something. So while one AV number one may isolate a threat, you can bet AV number two will still want to alert the user to its presence. This can lead to an endlessly annoying cycle of warnings, all-clears, and further warnings.
  • Both are hungry for your computer’s limited resources. Traditional antivirus products store static lists of known threats on each user’s machine so they can be checked against new data. This, plus the memory used for storing the endpoint agent, CPU for scheduled scans, on-demand scans, and even resource use during idling can add up to big demand. Multiply it by two and devices quickly become sluggish.

Putting the Problem Into Context

Those of you reading this may be thinking, But is all of this really a problem? Who wants to run duplicate endpoint security products anyway?

Consider a scenario, one in which you’re unhappy with your current AV solution. Maybe the management overhead is unreasonable and it’s keeping you from core business responsibilities. Then what?

“Rip and replace”—a phrase guaranteed to make many an MSP shudder—comes to mind. It suggests long evenings of after-hours work removing endpoint protection from device after device, exposing each of the machines under your care to a precarious period of no protection. For MSPs managing hundreds or thousands of endpoints, even significant performance issues can seem not worth the trouble.

Hence we’ve arrived at the problem with conflicting AV software. They lock MSPs into a no-win quagmire of poor performance on the one hand, and a potentially dangerous rip-and-replace operation on the other.

But by designing a no-conflict agent, these growing pains can be eased almost completely. MSPs unhappy with the performance of their current AV can install its replacement during working hours without breaking a sweat. A cloud-based malware prevention architecture and “next-gen” approach to mitigating attacks allows everyone to benefit from the ability to change and upgrade their endpoint security with minimal effort.

Simply wait for your new endpoint agent to be installed, uninstall its predecessor, and still be home in time for dinner.

Stop Wishing and Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Protection

Any modern endpoint protection worth its salt or designed with the user in mind has two key qualities that address this problem:

  1. It won’t conflict with other AV programs and
  2. It installs fast and painlessly.

After all, this is 2019 (and over 30 years since antivirus was invented) so you should expect as much. Considering the plethora of (often so-called) next-gen endpoint solutions out there, there’s just no reason to get locked into a bad relationship you can’t easily replace if something better comes along.

So when evaluating a new cybersecurity tool, ask whether it’s no conflict and how quickly it installs. You’ll be glad you did.

Cyber News Rundown: Instagram Phishing Campaign

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

Copyright Phishing Campaign Hits Instagram

Many Instagram accounts were recently compromised after receiving a notice that their accounts would be suspended for copyright infringement if they didn’t complete an objection form within 24 hours. By setting a timeframe, the attackers are hoping that flustered victims would quickly begin entering account credentials into a phony landing page before being redirected to the authentic Instagram login page to appear legitimate.

WordPress Plugin Exploited

Rich Reviews, a vulnerable WordPress plugin that was removed from the main WordPress repository more than six months ago, has been found still active on thousands of websites. This vulnerability allows attackers to download malicious payloads, then redirect victims to phony websites that could further infect their systems. Fortunately, several security companies are working with the plugin’s creators to fix the current vulnerabilities, though these updates won’t reach users until it’s put back on the repository.

Banking Malware Campaign

Hundreds of malware samples have been discovered that target ATMs and can be deployed to obtain sensitive banking information from infected systems. Dtrack, the name of the malware tools, can also be used to steal local machine information, such as keystrokes and browser history, by using known vulnerabilities in network security. This type of attack comes from the Lazarus Group, who have been known to target nations and major financial institutions around the world.

Click2Gov Site Hacked

An online bill paying site used in dozens of cities across the U.S. was recently hacked in at least eight cities, already compromising more than 20,000 individuals from all 50 states. This will be the third breach affecting Click2Gov, all of which used an exploit allowing attackers to gain both remote access to the system and upload any files they choose. Many of the cities that were targeted recently were part of the prior attacks on the Click2Gov portal.

Wyoming Healthcare Hit with Ransomware

Campbell County Health’s computer systems were brought to a halt after suffering a ransomware attack this week. Nearly 1,500 computers were affected and all currently scheduled surgeries and other medical care must be delayed or diverted to another facility. Fortunately, CCH is working quickly to restore all of their systems to normal and determine the exact infection point for the attack.

STEM for Kids: Why Does it Matter?

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

You have probably seen or heard news reports about STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and how important STEM jobs are for the economy; or maybe you’ve heard reports on schools that are making strides to improve their STEM programs for kids. It’s important for parents with school-aged children to fully understand what a STEM education is and why access to STEM learning resources is so critical.  

STEM education, which is rooted in a strong foundation in the disciplines of science and math, is traditionally a part of any student’s curriculum. But a truly effective STEM education focuses on the interdisciplinary layering of these disciplines into the larger educational picture. When applied appropriately, effective STEM learning is integrated across subject areas, which taps into a child’s natural curiosity, providing them with an outlet for their creative energy. 

Check out some more tips on what you can do to help create the STEM leaders of tomorrow.

Why is STEM important for kids?

STEM isn’t just a buzzword acronym. The data shows a real impact when a child is exposed to STEM activities or programs. Here are just a few of ways kids are benefiting from STEM learning. 

  • College Readiness: A recent study from ACT shows that teenagers with an expressed interest in STEM display significantly higher levels of college readiness than their uninterested cohort.  
  • Workforce Opportunity: Humanity will always need engineers, and STEM workforce growth will always reflect that need. Since 1990, STEM employment has  grown by nearly 80%, and the sector expects to see an additional 8.9% in growth before 2024. Even better, STEM workers earn around 26% higher salaries than others. Even if they don’t end up working in a traditionally STEM-focused field, people with STEM degrees tend to earn more on average across the board. 
  • American Infrastructure: It’s no secret that we have a shortage of STEM workers in the United States. In fact, of the 970,532 STEM-interested students polled in the ACT survey, only 5,839 indicated a plan to pursue a degree in a STEM field. With less than one percent of STEM-interested students pursuing the field, this leaves the future of our country’s digital infrastructure in potential peril. Consider this: China has a ratio of roughly one STEM grad for every 293 citizens, while the United States has one STEM grad for every 573 citizens. As it stands, we have roughly half the engineering power as our main economic rival, with no sign of bridging the gap. 

Getting kids involved in STEM

STEM may seem intimidating to introduce to a young child, but it’s such a diverse field in which you can find several points of entry. Many existing extracurricular activities have already integrated STEM initiatives. One notable example is the Girl Scouts of America’s pledge to bring 2.5 million young women into the STEM pipeline by infusing their existing programs with STEM education projects. Many local and national programs are also focused on engaging children in STEM. If you’re having trouble finding such programs in your area, don’t forget the valuable resource that is your local library. They can often help you find a few relevant activities around town. 

STEM at Home

You don’t have to wait for a STEM program to begin encouraging your child’s curiosity. Many simple, safe, and fun STEM projects can be worked on at home, like fun games or building toys (like creating magnetic slime or the engineering of simple robots). Finding at-home STEM activities to do with your child is an excellent first step toward giving them a solid foundation in STEM principles and nurturing their interest. 

Creating a new generation of scientists, engineers, and inventors is important for all of us. Here at Webroot, we partnered with the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program to engage with Denver-area students around the topics of STEM and cybersecurity awareness, and we’re continuing thisinitiative again this year in honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October. By engagingwith students in our community, we hope to plant the seeds that will encourage students to explore future opportunities in cybersecurity and IT.  

How are you applying STEM education to your child’s life? Find ways to get involved in National CyberSecurity Awareness Month here. 

5 Must-Haves When Working Outside the Office

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

When you’re running a business, it’s important to stay connected, whether you’re in the office or not. Modern technology has made this easier than ever, ensuring you can answer emails and stay on top of tasks in hotels, coffee shops, wherever. Social media influencer and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has even said, “The airplane is disproportionately the place where I get the most tangible amount of work done.” 

But if you’re going to get anything done outside the office or on the road, there are a few essentials to have on hand. Here are five must-haves to make sure you are prepared and productive.

#1 Protect Your Devices and Your Data

No, this is not at the top just because you’re reading this on a security blog. Anytime you’re accessing the internet in a hotel, coffee shop, or other public space, your data and devices are at risk. While security may not be at the top of your list of concerns, a whopping 58% of data breaches happen to SMBs, and 60% of those who are attacked fold within 6 months.

This is why security, at the very least endpoint security, should be your number one consideration when working on the go. But not all endpoint security solutions are created equal.

Explore fast and effective endpoint security designed for business.

Modern endpoint security is cloud-based, lightweight (won’t slow your device down), and is powered by 24/7 threat intelligence to make sure you are protected against all known threats. In fact, some do what is known as “journaling” when they encounter an unknown threat so if it is deemed malicious, every action the malware took can be rolled back, step by step.

It’s also worth considering implementing a VPN to secure your connection to your office software and data as well as secure your communications with colleagues. Public WiFi is a favorite target of malicious attacks, including man-in-the-middle attacks, so the more you can anonymize your activity, the better.

#2 Stay Connected

When you’re on the road, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have reliable WiFi. Coffee shop WiFi can vary depending on how many people are using it, and hotel WiFi often costs money. To make sure you can always stay connected to high-quality WiFi, you’ll want to invest in a mobile WiFi device, which will work much better than using your smartphone as a hotspot. Plus, using a mobile WiFi device will help save your phone battery and will free it up for any phone calls you need to make. 

In addition, by using your own WiFi hotspot, you will avoid some of the security risks that come from using public WiFi

#3 Stay Charged

The last thing you want when working on the go is for your devices to run out of battery. Of course, you must remember to bring your basic laptop and smartphone chargers. However, you might not always have convenient access to an outlet. In which case, you’re going to want to bring a portable charger. Smartphones and laptops have different battery needs so you might want to get a portable charger for each.

Here is a list of the top portable chargers for smartphones and another for the top power banks for your laptop.

#4 Stay in the Zone

If you’re out of the office, chances are it might be more difficult to find some peace and quiet. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you have a good set of headphones to help you get in the zone. 

If you’re choosing headphones, you’ll need to consider whether you want to go with over-the-ear or in-ear models. Over-the-ear models tend to have higher sound quality and better noise canceling features, but there are a variety of high-quality earbuds these days that may be easier to travel with. Whichever you go with, they’ll be useless without productivity-enhancing music to go along with them.

study published on the psychology of music found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and experienced better creativity. If you want to make your own playlist, it’s largely accepted that classical and other instrumental types of music work best for productivity. However, there are a variety of curated work playlists already in existence that you could use.

#5 Travel with the Right Bag

Now that you have your laptop, smartphone, chargers, portable batteries, headphones, and WiFi hotspot, you’ll need a way to carry it all around. But not just any bag will do. Since you’re traveling, you’ll want something that is compact, organized, and comfortable to carry, even if it’s heavy.

While the briefcase is a classic, it is not very efficient and can be cumbersome when also trying to carry coffee or talk on the phone. Backpacks are definitely the way to go if you want to carry everything comfortably while keeping your hands free. Just make sure to choose a bag made of durable materials with adequately wide and cushioned straps. The last thing you want in a bag is one you wince at the thought of carrying again after a long day.

Cyber News Rundown: TFlower Ransomware Exploiting RDP

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

TFlower Ransomware Exploiting RDP 

Ransomware attacks seem to be earning larger payouts by focusing on big businesses and governments, and a new variant dubbed TFlower might be no exception. TFlower has been proliferating by hacking into compromised networks through various remote desktop services. Attackers can reportedly execute the malware and begin encrypting most file types and removing all local backups. It is still unclear how much the demanded ransom is, but researchers have found that TFlower doesn’t append the encrypted files’ extensions.  

Ransomware is evolving. Click here to learn more on the threat.

Lion Airline Data Leak 

More than 30 million customer records belonging to two Lion Air-owned companies Malindo Air and Thai Lion Air were found in a publicly accessible database and later on several underground forums earlier this month. Among the available data are names, birthdates, and passport information, all of which could easily be used to commit identity fraud. While the data was available for nearly a month, it is still unclear how many individuals may have obtained copies of the data. 

White Hat Hackers Expose Webcam Security Flaws 

Over 15,000 unique webcams from several different manufacturers have been found to be using default security settings while connected to the internet. Many of the compromised devices have been identified in the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. This recent discovery should prompt manufacturers to implement additional security settings and require users to set their own passwords.  

Medical Patient Images and Data Unprotected 

In a recent research study of 2,300 healthcare systems, nearly 25 percent were publicly accessible on the internet, containing a total of 24.3 million patient healthcare records from at least 52 countries. Over 400 million medical images were available for access or download through a system that allows medical workers to share patient documents. These systems date back to the 1980s and need to be brought up to current security standards, as the current system has virtually none.  

Ecuadorian Data Analytics Breach 

An Ecuadorian data analysis firm, Novaestrat, is under investigation after it was discovered that the company left personally identifiable information for nearly every Ecuadorian citizen exposed in an unsecured database. Records for 2.5 million car owners and nearly 7.5 million financial and banking transactions were included in the records. Immediately upon the revelation of the breach, Ecuadorian government officials arrested the CEO for possessing the data illicitly.   

Keeping Your Vehicle Secure Against Smart Car Hacks

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

An unfortunate reality of all smart devices is that, the smarter they get, and the more integrated into our lives they become, the more devastating a security breach can be. Smart cars are no exception. On the contrary, they come with their own specific set of vulnerabilities. Following high-profile incidents like the infamous Jeep hack, it’s more important than ever that smart car owners familiarize themselves with their inherent vulnerabilities. It may even save lives.

Want smart device shopping tips? Make sure your security isn’t sacrificed for convenience.

Smart Car Vulnerabilities

At a recent hacking competition, two competitors were able to exploit a flaw in the Tesla Model 3 browser system and compromise the car’s firmware. While the reported “Tesla hack” made waves in the industry, it actually isn’t even one of the most common vulnerabilities smart car owners should look out for. These, easier to exploit, vulnerabilities may be more relevant to the average owner.

Car alarms, particularly aftermarket car alarms, are one of the largest culprits in smart car security breaches. A recent study found that at least three million vehicles are currently at risk due to insecure smart alarms. By exploiting insecure direct object reference (IDORS) issues within the alarm’s software, hackers can track the vehicle’s GPS location, disable the alarm, unlock doors, and in some cases even kill the engine while it is being used.

Key fobs are often used by hackers to gain physical access to a vehicle. By using a relay attack, criminals are able to capture a key fob’s specific signal with an RFID receiver and use it to unlock the car. This high-tech version of a duplicate key comes with a decidedly low-tech solution: Covering your key fob in aluminum foil will prevent the signal from being skimmed.

On-Board diagnostic ports are legally required for all vehicles manufactured after 1996 in the United States. Traditionally used by mechanics, the on-board diagnostics-II (OBD-II) port allows direct communication with your vehicle’s computer. Because the OBD-II port bypasses all security measures to provide direct access to the vehicle’s computer for maintenance, it provides particularly tempting backdoor access for hackers.

Protecting Your Smart Car from a Cybersecurity Breach

Precautions should always be taken after buying a new smart device, and a smart car is no exception. Here are the best ways to protect your family from a smart car hack.

Update your car’s firmware and keep it that way. Do not skip an update because you don’t think it’s important or it will take too much time. Car manufacturers are constantly testing and updating vehicle software systems to keep their customers safe—and their brand name out of the news. Signing up for vehicle manufacturer recalls and software patches will help you stay on top of these updates.

Disable unused smart services. Any and all of your car’s connectivity ports that you do not use should be turned off, if not altogether disabled. This means that if you don’t use your car’s Bluetooth connectivity, deactivate it. Removing these access points will make your car less exposed to hacks.

Don’t be a beta tester. We all want the newest and hottest technologies, but that doesn’t keep us at our most secure. Make sure that you’re purchasing a vehicle with technology that has been field tested for a few years, allowing time for any vulnerabilities to be exposed. Cutting-edge technologies are good. But bleeding edge? Not so much.

Ask questions when buying your vehicle and don’t be afraid to get technical. Ask the dealer or manufacturer which systems can be operated remotely, which features are networked together, and how those gateways are secured. If you’re not comfortable with the answers, take your money elsewhere.

Advocate for your security. As smart cars become so smart that they begin to drive themselves, consumers must demand that manufacturers provide better security for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.

Only use a trusted mechanic and be mindful of who you grant access to your car. OBD-II ports are vulnerable but necessary, so skipping the valet may save you a costly automotive headache down the line.

Keep the Conversation Going

As our cars get smarter, their vulnerabilities will change. Check back here to keep yourself updated on the newest trends in smart car technologies, and stay ahead of any potential threats.


Smishing Explained: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Do you remember the last time you’ve interacted with a brand, political cause, or fundraising campaign via text message? Have you noticed these communications occurring more frequently as of late?

It’s no accident. Whereas marketers and communications professionals can’t count on email opens or users accepting push notifications from apps, they’re well aware that around 98% of SMS messages are read within seconds of being received

Click here to see how 9 top endpoint security products perform against 15 efficiency benchmarks in the 2019 PassMark Report

As with any development in how we communicate, the rise in brand-related text messaging has attracted scammers looking to profit. Hence we arrive at a funny new word in the cybersecurity lexicon, “smishing.” Mathematical minds might understand it better represented by the following equation:

SMS + Phishing = Smishing

For the rest of us, smishing is the act of using text messages to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, visiting a risky site, or downloading a malicious app onto a smartphone. These often benign seeming messages might ask you to confirm banking details, verify account information, or subscribe to an email newsletter via a link delivered by SMS.

As with phishing emails, the end goal is to trick a user into an action that plays into the hands of cybercriminals. Shockingly, smishing campaigns often closely follow natural disasters as scammers try to prey on the charitable to divert funds into their own pockets.

Smishing vs Vishing vs Phishing

If you’re at all concerned with the latest techniques cybercriminals are using to defraud their victims, your vocabulary may be running over with terms for the newest tactics. Here’s a brief refresher to help keep them straight.

  • Smishing, as described above, uses text messages to extract the sought after information. Different smishing techniques are discussed below.
  • Vishing is when a fraudulent actor calls a victim pretending to be from a reputable organization and tries to extract personal information, such as banking or credit card information.
  • Phishing is any type of social engineering attack aimed at getting a victim to voluntarily turn over valuable information by pretending to be a legitimate source. Both smishing and vishing are variations of this tactic.

Examples of Smishing Techniques

Enterprising scammers have devised a number of methods for smishing smartphone users. Here are a few popular techniques to be aware of:

  • Sending a link that triggers the downloading of a malicious app. Clicks can trigger automatic downloads on smartphones the same way they can on desktop internet browsers. In smishing campaigns, these apps are often designed to track your keystrokes, steal your identity, cede control of your phone to hackers, or encrypt the files on your phone and hold them for ransom.
  • Linking to information-capturing forms. In the same way many email phishing campaigns aim to direct their victims to online forms where their information can be stolen, this technique uses text messages to do the same. Once a user has clicked on the link and been redirected, any information entered into the form can be read and misused by scammers.
  • Targeting users with personal information. In a variation of spear phishing, committed smishers may research a user’s social media activity in order to entice their target with highly personalized bait text messages. The end goal is the same as any phishing attack, but it’s important to know that these scammers do sometimes come armed with your personal information to give their ruse a real feel.
  • Referrals to tech support. Again, this technique is a variation on the classic tech support scam, or it could be thought of as the “vish via smish.” An SMS message will instruct the recipient to contact a customer support line via a number that’s provided. Once on the line, the scammer will try to pry information from the caller by pretending to be a legitimate customer service representative. 

How to Prevent Smishing

For all the conveniences technology has bestowed upon us, it’s also opened us up to more ways to be ripped off. But if a text message from an unknown number promising to rid you of mortgage debt (but only if you act fast) raises your suspicion, then you’re already on the right track to avoiding falling for smishing.

Here are a few other best practices for frustrating these attacks:

  • Look for all the same signs you would if you were concerned an email was a phishing attempt: 1) Check for spelling errors and grammar mistakes, 2) Visit the sender’s website itself rather than providing information in the message, and 3) Verify the sender’s telephone address to make sure it matches that of the company it purports to belong to.
  • Never provide financial or payment information on anything other than the trusted website itself.
  • Don’t click on links from unknown senders or those you do not trust
  • Be wary of “act fast,” “sign up now,” or other pushy and too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • Always type web addresses in a browser rather than clicking on the link.
  • Install a mobile-compatible antivirus on your smart devices.

Thoughtful Design in the Age of Cybersecurity AI

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

AI and machine learning offer tremendous promise for humanity in terms of helping us make sense of Big Data. But, while the processing power of these tools is integral for understanding trends and predicting threats, it’s not sufficient on its own.

Thoughtful design of threat intelligence—design that accounts for the ultimate needs of its consumers—is essential too. There are three areas where thoughtful design of AI for cybersecurity increases overall utility for its end users.

Designing where your data comes from

To set the process of machine learning in motion, data scientists rely on robust data sets they can use to train models that deduce patterns. If your data is siloed, it relies on a single community of endpoints or is made up only of data gathered from sensors like honeypots and crawlers. There are bound to be gaps in the resultant threat intelligence.

A diverse set of real-world endpoints is essential to achieve actionable threat intelligence. For one thing, machine learning models can be prone to picking up biases if exposed to either too much of a particular threat or too narrow of a user base. That may make the model adept at discovering one type of threat, but not so great at noticing others. Well-rounded, globally-sourced data provides the most accurate picture of threat trends.

Another significant reason real-world endpoints are essential is that some malware excels at evading traditional crawling mechanisms. This is especially common for phishing sites targeting specific geos or user environments, as well as for malware executables. Phishing sites can hide their malicious content from crawlers, and malware can appear benign or sit on a user’s endpoint for extended periods of time without taking an action.

Designing how to illustrate data’s context

Historical trends help to gauge future measurements, so designing threat intelligence that accounts for context is essential. Take a major website like www.google.com for example. Historical threat intelligence signals it’s been benign for years, leading to the conclusion that its owners have put solid security practices in place and are committed to not letting it become a vector for bad actors. On the other hand, if we look at a domain that was only very recently registered or has a long history of presenting a threat, there’s a greater chance it will behave negatively in the future. 

Illustrating this type of information in a useful way can take the form of a reputation score. Since predictions about a data object’s future actions—whether it be a URL, file, or mobile app—are based on probability, reputation scores can help determine the probability that an object may become a future threat, helping organizations determine the level of risk they are comfortable with and set their policies accordingly.

For more information on why context is critical to actionable threat intelligence, click here.

Designing how you classify and apply the data

Finally, how a threat intelligence provider classifies data and the options they offer partners and users in terms of how to apply it can greatly increase its utility. Protecting networks, homes, and devices from internet threats is one thing, and certainly desirable for any threat intelligence feed, but that’s far from all it can do.

Technology vendors designing a parental control product, for instance, need threat intelligence capable of classifying content based on its appropriateness for children. And any parent knows malware isn’t the only thing children should be shielded from. Categories like adult content, gambling sites, or hubs for pirating legitimate media may also be worthy of avoiding. This flexibility extends to the workplace, too, where peer-to-peer streaming and social media sites can affect worker productivity and slow network speeds, not to mention introduce regulatory compliance concerns. Being able to classify internet object with such scalpel-like precision makes thoughtfully designed threat intelligence that is much more useful for the partners leveraging it.

Finally, the speed at which new threat intelligence findings are applied to all endpoints on a device is critical. It’s well-known that static threat lists can’t keep up with the pace of today’s malware, but updating those lists on a daily basis isn’t cutting it anymore either. The time from initial detection to global protection must be a matter of minutes.

This brings us back to where we started: the need for a robust, geographically diverse data set from which to draw our threat intelligence. For more information on how the Webroot Platform draws its data to protect customers and vendor partners around the globe, visit our threat intelligence page.

Cyber News Rundown: Arizona School Ransomware Attack

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

Ransomware Closes Arizona School District

As many students began returning for the fall semester, classes were cancelled in the Flagstaff Unified School District in Arizona after a ransomware attack disabled some of the district’s computer systems. Officials haven’t yet released any additional information on the ransom demanded or if any sensitive employee or student documents was compromised. The attack is another in a chain of ransomware campaigns affecting dozens of school districts around the country in recent months.

Want more on the latest threats to your online security and privacy?
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date.

BEC Scam Targets Toyota Corporation

A subsidiary company of Toyota fell victim to a business email compromise (BEC) that could cost more than $37 million. Using social engineering to convince the victim to send the wire transfer has become a common practice around the world and earned scammers an estimated $1.3 billion in 2018 alone. Officials are still working to determine the proper course of action to recover the stolen funds, though it is unlikely they will be able to track down their present location.

International BEC Sting Nets 281 Arrests

With the cooperation of many law enforcement agencies around the world, at least 281 individuals were taken into custody for their roles in various BEC scams. Along with the arrests, officials seized $3.7 million in cash that had been stolen by redirecting wire transfers while posing as a high-level executive. While the majority of arrests came from Europe and Africa, nearly a quarter occurred in the U.S.

LokiBot Campaign Affects U.S. Manufacturer

A poorly written email phishing campaign was recently discovered with a rather malicious payload called  LokiBot. In the scam, once a victim would open the attachment (with assurances in the email that it simply needs to be reviewed), an archive would unzip and allow the payload to begin hunting for credentials and any other sensitive information stored on the system. After reviewing the LokiBot sample, the IP address from which the campaign originated from has been tied to several other, similar campaigns from recent months.

Oklahoma State Trooper Pension Fund Stolen

Malicious hackers recently stole more than $4.2 million from the Oklahoma State Trooper’s pension fund, which was to be used to assist roughly 1,500 retired law enforcement agents in the state. While most of the benefits programs should remain unaffected, officials are confident that they will be able to recover the funds, which would also be covered by insurance company if unable to be recovered.

Employee Spotlight: Chat with Alia AlaaEldin Adly

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

According to a report from hired.com, the demand for security engineers is up 132%. Additionally, the need for engineers who specialize in data analytics and machine learning has increased by 38% and 27%, respectively. Given recent trends in cybersecurity, it’s no wonder, and demand at Webroot is no exception. To be successful, our software engineers have to stay ahead of AI and machine learning trends so they can explore, work, grow, and effectively evolve tech in the cybersecurity industry.  

We talked to Alia AlaaElDin Adly, a software engineer based in Linz, Austria. In her role, Alia is constantly looking for new technology, testing platforms, and developing the new solutions to stay ahead of modern threats.  

What is your favorite part of working as a software engineer?

I enjoy exploring new technology and frameworks, specially figuring out problems by hand. Software engineers don’t always receive all the requirements up front, so we need to develop strategies and work on tasks without having all the pieces necessary to execute. For example, take the testing framework SpecFlow. We had to do a lot of research, have numerous brainstorming sessions, and rework the project outline to create a viable structure that would fit the needs of our APIs. It’s a fun challenge.

What does a week as a software engineer look like?

It really depends on the task at hand. Some tasks take a day or two, and others can take quite a bit longer. In planning, most tasks are designed to be completed in a maximum of two days, but, when you meet an unexpected obstacle and need to find a workaround, the task needs more time. Also, you have to factor in how much research or prototyping a task may require. One thing I can say about working at Webroot is that I am learning a lot. It’s like a rollercoaster ride: ups and downs, lefts and rights, spirals, and just when you think you’re done, even more spirals!

What have you learned / what skills have you built in this role?

When I started, I had pretty bad documentation habits. You hear a lot about the importance of documentation in school, but some lessons don’t really sink in until you have to face them in a real-world setting. I would say I still need to work on it, but my documentation has really improved! I am also getting better at having a proper project structure, and I’m really enjoying all the new tools and technologies I get to learn, like the Specflow framework and Xamarin forms.

What is your greatest accomplishment in your career at Webroot so far?

I work on the Unity API team based in Linz, Austria. The Webroot® Unity API is a platform that enables admins to dig deeper into the services and information Webroot offers. It’s a really useful tool for a lot of our customers, and I helped build out a automation testing framework to create smoke and regression tests for the API. Also, I managed and organized the end-of-year spotlight video that showcased what our team had accomplished.

What brought you to Webroot after your last job?

I was already in Austria completing my masters when I applied for the job. During the interview process, I liked how Webroot felt like a family. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming the day I started. Instead of making me feel like a nervous newcomer, they brought me in and helped me feel involved and important right away. And it has stayed that way.

Best career advice you’ve received?

To always be flexible and not limit yourself. You have to be curious not only about the world around you, but what you can do in it. If you keep your options open, you’re more likely to discover new strengths, and new (and exciting!) challenges to overcome.

What is your favorite thing to do in Linz?

I enjoy walking around in the city center and along the Danube River. I also like to go cycling, climbing, and running. During spring and summer, I usually bike to work and I like going to the lake to play beach racket. Of course, I love traveling and visiting new cities and countries! I feel very lucky that Webroot’s Linz office is in such a good location, which makes quick day trips and weekend travel really easy.