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Did you know that the amount of money lost to cyberattacks in the US rose to a record $4.2 billion in 2020 and there were 800,000 cybercrime complaints made to the FBI? Phishing was the most common way used by cybercriminals to get confidential data from unsuspecting recipients.
Are you worried about the different cyberattacks that businesses have to watch out for? Do you want to learn about this cybersecurity threat so you can protect yourself and your business better? Keep reading to find out more.
1. Phishing Attack
The weakest link when it comes to your business's cybersecurity is your employees. They are vulnerable to many different kinds of cyberattacks, the most common of these being phishing attacks.
In this attack, cybercriminals trick your employees into revealing their login credentials. They might send an email with a malicious link in it, which when clicked asks them for their login details. If the employee is tricked into it, the cybercriminals can get access to their important accounts.
It's a cheap and efficient way for cybercriminals to get lots of sensitive and confidential data from people. This can leave your organization vulnerable to losing customers and future business because your reputation is degraded and negatively affected.
That's why people are always told never to click links in an email that seems suspicious and to never give out any sensitive or confidential information in an email.
2. Malware-Based Attack
Using a common delivery method like email, cybercriminals will install malware on the person's computer which will allow them access to the login details and other important data on the user's system. This kind of attack uses your weak link, i.e. employees, yet again. That's why training and informing your employees about various security threats is so crucial.
Sometimes the cybercriminals will select their targets carefully from the employee roster at an organization, but other times, they will send an email en masse and see what they get back.
3. Attacks Through Uploading Files
This file upload attack is used commonly on websites that allow users to upload files, like contact form attachments, social media posts, profile photos, etc. This allows cybercriminals to write a huge chunk of malicious code onto your server and get access to your entire website.
The problem is most websites have this file upload option on them, such as code in a user profile or contact form. No website seems safe from this vulnerability.
4. Outdated And Vulnerable Software
Sofware technology comes with a short life cycle and it needs constant updating, patches, and upgrades to ensure that it runs safely. And is also compatible with other software. It's important to ensure all the software your employees are updated and upgraded regularly.
Attacks on outdated software or those that haven't been patched happen primarily by attacks through SQL injection and brute force. So if you have a WordPress site, ensure that you update it to the latest version as soon as it's available to keep it safe from cyberattacks.
5. Password Attacks
The most common password used in the world in 2021 is still 123456! That leads to a situation where your sensitive accounts, databases, and servers are easily vulnerable to cybercriminals.
Even if you are using a complicated password for your login credentials, cybercriminals can use a bot to randomly generate passwords. They try logging into your account using those passwords until they get the correct one. That's called brute force attack.
Another way a cybercriminal can guess your password and get at your account is a dictionary attack where they analytically enter words in a dictionary as a password until they get the right one. Password spraying is where they use the few common passwords most people use and get access to your account that way.
That's why it's so important to choose a complicated password that's 8 characters or longer with alphanumeric characters and symbols.
Also, prompt your employees to change their password at least every six months. And make it mandatory so they can't log in without changing their password. This way they won't procrastinate on this very important task.
6. DNS Spoofing
How do you know you are going to the right website when you click on a particular link? You just assume you are, since you trust the internet and everything that happens on it (or most things that happen on it).
But through DNS spoofing, a cybercriminal submits false information into a DNS cache. This returns incorrect responses on a DNS query and lands the user on the wrong website. In this manner, the user submits their login information and other sensitive information to the wrong website, giving access to such important data to a cybercriminal.
7. Accidental Exposure Of Sensitive Data
Unfortunately, most people aren't too careful with their sensitive data. They leave it out in the 'open', making it vulnerable to data breaches, and unauthorized access to cybercriminals.
It's akin to leaving your laptop in a cafe and walking over to the bathroom to wash your hands. And being surprised when your laptop isn't anywhere to be found when you come back.
Ensure that anything that's publicly accessible doesn't contain any sensitive information on it. This includes files on public servers, error messages, database tables, and log files. All information online is vulnerable to a cyberattack and must be treated as such.
Cyberattacks Are Getting More Insidious As Time Goes On
Cybercriminals are becoming savvier and more dangerous as time goes on. They manipulate both online data and offline people to get access to sensitive information. If you are worried about cyberattacks and feel vulnerable to such security threats, putting your head in the sand won't help.
Speak to a cybersecurity cybersecurity experts at The Driz Group today.. We can help you build a solid plan for your business and employees to protect yourself from cyber threats of all kinds.
We are informed of all the latest to do with cybersecurity and will keep your system safe from all emerging threats. Our emergency response team is available 24/7 to protect you and your business.
Emerging Threat: Blockchain-Enabled Botnet
Google, together with Internet infrastructure providers and hosting providers, recently disrupted the operation of a blockchain-enabled botnet, taking down the operation’s servers – for now.
In partnership with Internet infrastructure providers and hosting providers such as Cloudflare, Google said it has taken down the servers of the Glupteba botnet.
Glupteba is a malicious software (malware) that has been around for less than a decade. Through the years, this malware uses many common cybercrime tricks. Similar to other malware, Glupteba is a zombie malware, also known as bot (short for software robot), that can be controlled remotely.
The group being Glupteba also operates a botnet – a group of computer devices each infected with the Glupteba malware and hijacked to carry out various scams and cyberattacks.
In the blog post “New action to combat cyber crime”, Royal Hansen, Vice President for Security at Google, and Halimah DeLaine Prado, Google General Counsel, said Glupteba botnet currently hijacked approximately one million Windows devices worldwide, and at times, grows at a rate of thousands of new devices per day.
“Botnets are a real threat to Internet users, and require the efforts of industry and law enforcement to deter them,” Hansen and Prado said.
In another blog post “Disrupting the Glupteba operation”, security researchers Shane Huntley and Luca Nagy from Google Threat Analysis Group said that individuals operating the Glupteba botnet offered multiple online services, including selling access to virtual machines loaded with stolen credentials, proxy access, and selling credit card numbers to be used for other malicious activities such as serving malicious ads and payment fraud on Google Ads.
Computer devices that form part of the Glupteba botnet are also used for unauthorized cryptocurrency mining, enabling the group behind this malware to earn cryptocoins, while owners of hijacked computer devices unknowingly pay the high electric bills resulting from the cryptocurrency mining.
Glupteba malware distributes itself automatically across victims’ networks via two different variants of the ETERNALBLUE exploit – a Windows exploit used in the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack. ETERNALBLUE exploits outdated computer devices. Glupteba has also been known to exploit unprotected and outdated popular home and small business routers.
The group behind Glupteba often hides its zombie malware behind pirated software. Computer devices, even those patched against ETERNALBLUE, are attacked by Glupteba malware via pirated software from well-known piracy sites.
While Glupteba has been known to use many common cybercrime tricks, it’s known for using the Bitcoin blockchain for its malicious activities. Just like in the Cold War era when spies communicated using the “Personals” section in a print newspaper, the group behind the Glupteba botnet communicates using the Bitcoin blockchain.
“Glupteba uses the fact that the Bitcoin transactions are recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain, which is a public record of transactions available from a multitude of sources that are unexceptionably accessible from most networks,” security researcher Paul Ducklin from SophosLabs said in the write-up "Glupteba – the malware that gets secret messages from the Bitcoin blockchain".
Ducklin from SophosLabs added, “Bitcoin ‘transactions’ don’t actually have to be about money – they can include a field called RETURN, also known as OP_RETURN, that is effectively a comment of up to 80 characters.”
Security researchers from SophosLabs decrypted the secret message “venoco___ol.com” in one of the Bitcoin wallets used by the group behind Glupteba. This secret message means that the new command-and-control server used by the Glupteba is moved to venoco___ol.com.
“The current command-and-control servers used by the crooks, known as C2 servers or C&Cs, might get found out and blocked or killed off at any moment, so zombie malware often includes a method for using an otherwise innocent source of data for updates,” Ducklin added. “After all, to tell a bot to switch from one C&C server to another, you typically don’t need to send out much more than new domain name or IP number, and there are lots of public messaging systems that make it easy to share short snippets of data like that.”
Security researchers Huntley and Nagy from Google Threat Analysis Group said that the group behind Glupteba is likely to attempt to regain control of the Glupteba botnet by using a backup command and control mechanism that uses data encoded on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Royal Hansen, Vice President for Security at Google, and Halimah DeLaine Prado, Google General Counsel, meanwhile, admitted that taking down the command and control infrastructure of Glupteba isn’t the end game for the group behind Glupteba. Before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Google filed the first lawsuit against a blockchain-enabled botnet, in particular, suing two named individuals and 15 unidentified individuals.
“However, due to Glupteba’s sophisticated architecture and the recent actions that its organizers have taken to maintain the botnet, scale its operations, and conduct widespread criminal activity, we have also decided to take legal action against its operators, which we believe will make it harder for them to take advantage of unsuspecting users,” Hansen and Prado said.
Best Practices to Mitigate the Risks
Here are some of the cybersecurity best practices to protect your organization’s computer devices from being hijacked as part of a botnet like the Glupteba botnet:
Top Cloud Security Threat: Unauthorized Cryptocurrency Mining
Google's Cybersecurity Action Team recently published a report naming unauthorized cryptocurrency mining, also known as cryptojacking, as the top threat to Google Cloud Platform.
What Is Cryptocurrency Mining?
Cryptocurrency mining refers to the process of creating a new coin. Aside from creating new coins, cryptocurrency mining also refers to validating cryptocurrency transactions.
In many countries, cryptocurrency mining is legal. With the rise of cryptocurrency prices, malicious actors are stealing computing resources such as cloud resources from Google Cloud Platform. The skyrocketing value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin has prompted threat actors to shift their focus from stealing data to stealing compute power in organizations’ public cloud environments.
Aside from mining Bitcoin, threat actors also mine other cryptocurrencies that are particularly developed to evade transaction tracing.
According to Google's Cybersecurity Action Team, out of 50 recently compromised Google Cloud Platform instances, 86% were used to perform cryptocurrency mining.
Unauthorized cryptocurrency mining, specifically, cloud resources is nothing new. In February 2018, RedLock reported that Tesla was once a victim of unauthorized cryptocurrency mining.
“The hackers had infiltrated Tesla’s Kubernetes console which was not password protected,” RedLock said. “Within one Kubernetes pod, access credentials were exposed to Tesla’s AWS environment which contained an Amazon S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) bucket that had sensitive data such as telemetry.”
Google's Cybersecurity Action Team, meanwhile, said that compromised Google Cloud Platform instances were compromised through the following:
Google's Cybersecurity Action Team also found that in 58% of situations, the cryptocurrency mining software was downloaded to the system within 22 seconds of being compromised.
“This suggests that the initial attacks and subsequent downloads were scripted events not requiring human intervention,” Google's Cybersecurity Action Team said. “The ability to manually intervene in these situations to prevent exploitation is nearly impossible..”
Threat actors easily find vulnerable internet-facing applications and exposed cloud accounts through the process called scanning.
Google's Cybersecurity Action Team reported that the shortest amount of time between deploying a vulnerable Cloud instance exposed to the internet and its compromise was as little as 30 minutes, with 40% of instances, the time to compromise was under eight hours.
“This suggests that the public IP address space is routinely scanned for vulnerable Cloud instances,” Google's Cybersecurity Action Team said.
An earlier study conducted by researchers from Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 found that vulnerable internet-exposed applications are compromised in just 24 hours. Between July 2021 and August 2021, Unit 42 researchers set up 320 honeypots (network-attached computers purposely set up to lure threat actors) to verify how fast threat actors compromise four vulnerable internet-exposed applications. These four apps were purposely configured with weak passwords.
Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 researchers found that 80% of the 320 honeypots were compromised in just 24 hours and all of the honeypots were compromised within a week. For these honeypots, Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 researchers applied firewall policies to block IPs from known network scanners.
Unit 42 researchers found that applying firewall policies to block IPs from known network scanners doesn’t work as 85% of the attacker IPs were observed only on a single day. The researchers identified a daily average of 75,000 unique scanner IP addresses globally.
According to Google's Cybersecurity Action Team, Google Cloud customers with non-secure Cloud instances will likely be detected and attacked in a relatively short period of time. “Given that most instances were used for cryptocurrency mining rather than exfiltration of data, Google analysts concluded the Google Cloud IP address range was scanned rather than particular Google Cloud customers being targeted,” Google Team said.
Unauthorized Cryptocurrency Mining Risk Mitigation
Unauthorized cryptocurrency mining of cloud resources is bad for business. Cryptocurrency mining is resource-intensive. With unauthorized cryptocurrency mining, threat actors earn money while your organization unknowingly ends up paying the rented cloud computing bill.
In the case of unauthorized cryptocurrency mining done on your organization’s internet-exposed networks, negative impacts include the substantial increase in electrical consumption and an increase in the wear and tear on the hardware.
Here are some of the cybersecurity best practices to protect your organization’s internet-exposed networks and cloud accounts:
Monitor cloud configurations, network traffic, and suspicious user behavior via automated solutions. It’s important to have automated solutions. As shown by Google's Cybersecurity Action Team’s report, cryptocurrency mining software is downloaded to the system within 22 seconds of being compromised, making human intervention impossible.
Contact us today to assess your cybersecurity posture and mitigate the risks.
Vulnerable Internet-Exposed Applications Compromised in 24 Hours, Report Shows
A study conducted by researchers from Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 found that vulnerable internet-exposed applications are compromised in just 24 hours.
Vulnerable internet-exposed applications once compromised pose a security risk to cloud environments within the same infrastructure.
Between July 2021 and August 2021, Unit 42 researchers set up 320 honeypots to verify how fast threat actors compromise four vulnerable internet-exposed applications, namely, secure shell protocol (SSH), remote desktop protocol (RDP), Samba, and Postgres.
Honeypots are network-attached computers that are purposely set up to lure threat actors to access these network-attached computers. Honeypots are set up to study the attackers’ methodologies.
SSH is a protocol that allows users to open remote shells on other computers. Samba is a free software re-implementation of the Server Message Block (SMB) networking protocol. SMB is a communication protocol used for sharing access to files, printers, serial ports for Windows computers on the same network or domain.
RDP, meanwhile, is a network communications protocol developed by Microsoft, allowing users to remotely connect to another computer. Postgres, also known as PostgreSQL, is an enterprise-class open source database management system.
Access to any of these four standard applications allows attackers to remotely connect to the victim’s network and perform malicious activities such as further compromising cloud environments within the same network.
The honeypots deployed by the Unit 42 researchers had vulnerable SSH, Samba, RDP, and Postgres. For instance, they intentionally use weak usernames and weak passwords.
Weaknesses in SSH, Samba, RDP, and Postgres are often exploited by cyberattackers. Ransomware groups, including REvil and Mespinoza, are known to exploit internet-exposed applications to gain initial access to victims' environments.
In Q3 2021, Digital Shadows reported that RDP and SSH are among the top access of choice of Initial Access Brokers – individuals or groups that act as intermediaries in identifying vulnerable organizations and selling access to the networks of these vulnerable organizations to the highest bidder.
Unit 42 researchers found that 80% of the 320 honeypots were compromised within 24 hours and all of the honeypots were compromised within a week. Out of the four vulnerable internet-exposed applications, SSH was the most attacked application and on average, each SSH honeypot was compromised 26 times daily.
The researchers also found that one threat actor compromised 96% of 80 Postgres honeypots globally within 30 seconds. The researchers’ honeypots applied firewall policies to block IPs from known network scanners. They found that blocking known scanner IPs is ineffective in mitigating attacks as 85% of the attacker IPs were observed only on a single day.
"This number indicates that Layer 3 IP-based firewalls are ineffective as attackers rarely reuse the same IPs to launch attacks,” Unit 42 researchers said. “A list of malicious IPs created today will likely become outdated tomorrow.”
The researchers also found that vulnerable internet-exposed applications were compromised multiple times by multiple different attackers. As attackers competed for the victim’s resources, tools such as Rocke or TeamTNT were used to remove the malicious software (malware) left by other cyberattackers.
"The speed of vulnerability management is usually measured in days or months,” Unit 42 researchers said. “The fact that attackers could find and compromise our honeypots in minutes was shocking. When a misconfigured or vulnerable service [application] is exposed to the internet, it takes attackers just a few minutes to discover and compromise the service.”
The speed at which threat actors find vulnerable internet-facing applications is achieved through the process called scanning. Threat actors aren’t alone in finding vulnerable internet-facing applications through scanning.
Legitimate scanning service providers, such as Shodan, Censys, and Shadowserver, allow users to find vulnerable internet-facing applications. These legitimate scanning service providers have fixed IP addresses. Threat actors, on the other hand, as shown in the findings of the Unit 42 researchers, don’t use fixed IP addresses, but rather change their IP addresses every day.
Unit 42 researchers identified an average of 75,000 unique scanner IP addresses globally that enumerated more than 9,500 different ports every day. The researchers found that Samba, Telnet (a protocol that allows users to connect to remote computers over a TCP/IP network, such as the internet), and SSH were the three most scanned services, accounting for 36% of scanning traffic globally.
Scanning, per se, doesn’t compromise vulnerable internet-facing applications. This method, however, is used by cybercriminals to identify potential victims.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
Here are some of the cybersecurity best practices to protect your organization’s vulnerable internet-exposed applications:
Keep to a bare minimum the exposure of applications to the internet. If internet-exposed applications aren’t used, disable them.
If there’s a need to expose these applications to the internet, secure them by applying in a timely manner the security updates, by using strong passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and other security measures such as virtual private network (VPN).
In using a Firewall, use the whitelisting approach, rather than the blacklisting approach. In whitelisting, only the approved or whitelisted entities are given access to your organization’s network, blocking all others. Blacklisting, on the other hand, blocks known malicious IP addresses. As shown in the study conducted by Unit 42 researchers, cyberattackers regularly change their IP addresses defeating the purpose of blacklisting.
The Rise of Internet Access Brokers
Researchers from BlackBerry Research & Intelligence Team recently discovered three separate threat groups using the same IT infrastructure maintained by a threat actor dubbed as Zebra2104, which the researchers believe to be an Initial Access Broker.
What Is an Initial Access Broker?
As the name denotes, an Initial Access Broker either buys or sells goods or assets for others. In this case, what is being bought or sold for others is the initial access to the victim’s network.
Once an Initial Access Broker has access to an organization’s network, the broker then advertises this initial access to prospective buyers in the underground forums on the dark web. Initial Access Brokers typically sell access to the victim’s network to the highest bidder on underground forums. The winning bidder then deploys ransomware or other malicious software (malware) to steal or snoop the victim’s critical data.
Initial Access Broker is the first kill chain of many cyberattacks, including ransomware attacks. Initial access to victims’ networks comes in different forms. These include access to vulnerable and internet exposed remote desktop protocol (RDP) and virtual private network (VPN).
VPN, in principle, establishes a protected network connection when using public networks. In the past few years, a number of vulnerabilities have been discovered in many VPN products. RDP, short for remote desktop protocol, is a network communications protocol developed by Microsoft, allowing a computer user to remotely connect to another computer.
In the blog post "Data science for cybersecurity: A probabilistic time series model for detecting RDP inbound brute force attacks", Microsoft Defender Security Research Team said that computers with RDP exposed to the internet are an attractive target for attackers as they offer attackers a simple and effective way to gain access to a network. According to Microsoft Defender Security Research Team, brute-forcing RDP doesn’t need a high level of expertise or the use of exploits.
“RDP connections almost always take place at port 3389, and attackers can assume that this is the port in use and target it to carry out man-in-the-middle attempts, amongst other attacks,” Digital Shadows researchers said in the blog post “Initial Access Brokers In Q3 2021”.
Digital Shadows researchers reported that during the third quarter of 2021, RDP and VPN continued to be the access of choice for Initial Access Brokers. During the third quarter of 2021, the average price for VPN was $1869, while the average price for RDP was $1902. According to Digital Shadows researchers, RDP and VPN were also the most popular access of choice for Initial Access Brokers Q1 and Q2 2021.
“This [popularity of RDP and VPN] is likely due to a combination of the increased use of both technologies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities afforded to an actor purchasing a VPN or RDP access,” Digital Shadows researchers said.
Digital Shadows researchers added that the VPN-RDP combination – referring to access type that uses VPN access to a victim’s RDP dedicated server – was significantly more expensive in Q3 than the last quarter. “It’s realistically possible that this access type [VPN-RDP] may represent a more secure method of gaining access to targeted networks, and as a result, become more desirable for interested actors,” Digital Shadows researchers said.
Digital Shadows researchers reported that Initial Access Brokers are advertising various accesses to RAMP (Ransom Anon Mark Place), a recently relaunched Russian-language cybercriminal forum.
In the blog post "Hunter Becomes Hunted: Zebra2104 Hides a Herd of Malware", BlackBerry researchers said they uncovered a connection between the criminal activities of three distinct threat groups, MountLocker, Phobos, and StrongPity. “While it might seem implausible for criminal groups to be sharing resources, we found these groups [MountLocker, Phobos, and StrongPity] had a connection that is enabled by a fourth; a threat actor we have dubbed Zebra2104, which we believe to be an Initial Access Broker (IAB),” BlackBerry researchers said.
MountLocker is a ransomware group that has been active since July of 2020. Phobos is another ransomware group that was first seen in early 2019. Phobos has been victimizing small-to-medium-sized organizations across a variety of industries. StrongPity, also known as Promethium, is an espionage group that has been active since at least 2012.
According to BlackBerry researchers, a single domain led them down a path where they uncovered multiple ransomware attacks by MountLocker, Phobos, and a command-and-control (C2) of StrongPity. “The path also revealed what we believe to be the infrastructure of an IAB: Zebra2104,” BlackBerry researchers said.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
Cybercrime groups nowadays mimic multinational organizations’ business models. Similar to multinational organizations, cybercrime groups establish partnerships and alliances with other organizations, in this case, with Initial Access Brokers.
Considering that RDP and VPN are the popular initial accesses, it’s important to guard these two gateways. Here are some of the best practices to guard RDP and VPN:
Some of the most widespread and devastating cyberattacks, according to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), have included multiple vulnerabilities – a cyberattack methodology known as “chaining”.
What Is Chaining?
Chaining is a type of cyberattack that uses a combination of multiple cybersecurity vulnerabilities rated “critical”, “high”, “medium”, or even “low”.
Today’s publicly disclosed cybersecurity vulnerabilities are listed or cataloged under CVE, which stands for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures. Each cybersecurity vulnerability in the list is given an identification number.
For example, CVE-2021-26855 is the identification number given to a part of an attack chain against Microsoft Exchange Server. This security vulnerability has a “critical” rating under CVSS, which stands for Common Vulnerability Scoring System.
Although sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CISA, CVE is run by the non-profit organization MITRE. The Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) provides a standard for CVSS numerical score and qualitative representation (critical, high, medium, and low) for CVE entries. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Vulnerability Database (NVD), meanwhile, provides a free CVSS calculator for CVE entries.
Real-World Examples of Chaining Attacks
CVE-2021-26855, CVE-2021-26857, CVE-2021-26858, and CVE-2021-27065 are four security vulnerabilities that are part of an attack chain against Microsoft Exchange Server.
Microsoft describes the four security vulnerabilities this way:
CVE-2021-26855 is a server-side request forgery (SSRF) vulnerability in Exchange which allowed the attacker to send arbitrary HTTP requests and authenticate as the Exchange server.
CVE-2021-26857 is an insecure deserialization vulnerability in the Unified Messaging service. Insecure deserialization is where untrusted user-controllable data is deserialized by a program. Exploiting this vulnerability gave HAFNIUM [named given by Microsoft to the group behind this chain attack] the ability to run code as SYSTEM on the Exchange server. This requires administrator permission or another vulnerability to exploit.
CVE-2021-26858 is a post-authentication arbitrary file write vulnerability in Exchange. If HAFNIUM could authenticate with the Exchange server then they could use this vulnerability to write a file to any path on the server. They could authenticate by exploiting the CVE-2021-26855 SSRF vulnerability or by compromising a legitimate admin’s credentials.
CVE-2021-27065 is a post-authentication arbitrary file write vulnerability in Exchange. If HAFNIUM could authenticate with the Exchange server then they could use this vulnerability to write a file to any path on the server. They could authenticate by exploiting the CVE-2021-26855 SSRF vulnerability or by compromising a legitimate admin’s credentials.
In the blog post "HAFNIUM targeting Exchange Servers with 0-day exploits", Microsoft said CVE-2021-26855, CVE-2021-26857, CVE-2021-26858, and CVE-2021-27065 vulnerabilities were used by the threat actor HAFNIUM to access on-premises Exchange servers which enabled access to email accounts, and allowed installation of additional malware to facilitate long-term access to victim environments.
According to CISA, attackers don’t rely only on “critical” vulnerabilities to achieve their goals. For instance, some attackers use lower score vulnerabilities to first gain a foothold, then exploit additional vulnerabilities to escalate privilege on an incremental basis.
In the above-mentioned real-world example of chaining attacks, CVE-2021-26855 has a critical CVSS rating, while CVE-2021-26857, CVE-2021-26858, and CVE-2021-27065 have a high CVSS rating.
In a chaining attack, threat actors don’t necessarily exploit multiple security vulnerabilities in one application. There are cases in which threat actors exploit vulnerabilities in multiple applications during a single attack.
Mitigating the Risks of Chaining Attacks
The best cybersecurity best practice against chaining attacks is by keeping all software up to date.
Keeping all software up to date, however, is easier said than done. As of November 11, 2021, there are a total of over 160,000 CVE records. Organizations need to properly assess and prioritize which security vulnerabilities should be patched first.
In the study "Historical Analysis of Exploit Availability Timelines", researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that only 4% of the total number of CVEs have been publicly exploited in the wild. The researchers further found that out of the 4% publicly exploited CVEs, 42% are being used on day 0 of disclosure; 50% within 2 days of disclosure; and 75% within 28 days of disclosure. The CVSS ratings of some of these publicly exploited CVEs have “medium” or even “low” severity ratings.
CISA recently established a “living” catalog of CVEs that are exploited in the wild. The agency calls these publicly exploited CVEs as “Known Exploited Vulnerabilities (KEVs)”. CISA initially listed 182 vulnerabilities from 2017-2020 and 108 from 2021.
CISA said that the CVSS scores or ratings don’t always accurately depict the danger or actual hazard that a CVE presents.
Instead of only focusing on vulnerabilities that carry a specific CVSS rating, KEVs target vulnerabilities for remediation that have known exploits and are being actively exploited by malicious cyber actors. CISA recommends that these KEVs have to be remediated within a more aggressive timeline.
CISA said these are two of the reasons for a more aggressive remediation timeline for KEVs:
Ransomware Attack Shuts Down Several Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Services
Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the public transport agency that provides public transportation services to commuters in Toronto and from surrounding municipalities, is still reeling days after a ransomware attack hit the agency’s computer network.
In a statement released last October 29th, TTC said that last October 28th, it learned it was the victim of a ransomware attack. The agency said TTC IT staff detected "unusual network activity" and attackers "broadened their strike on network servers."
TTC said the impacted services and systems include:
In the absence of the TTC's Vision system, operators have been forced to communicate with Transit Control with radios. Customers of Wheel Trans van service who couldn’t book online were asked to phone to reserve pickup. And without email service, customers are asked to call.
Shabnum Durrani, TTC head of corporate communications, told IT World Canada that she couldn’t say what ransomware strain attacked TTC. She couldn’t say also if the attackers were able to copy emails of employees, nor could she say if any corporate data was copied. When asked whether TTC has been in contact with the ransomware attackers, Durrani said, “I cannot comment on that at this time.”
As of November 3, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said that Wheel Trans online booking system is now up and running.
Ransomware Attacks on Public Transport Systems
In December 2020, Metro Vancouver's transportation network TransLink confirmed that it was a victim of a ransomware attack.
“We are now in a position to confirm that TransLink was the target of a ransomware attack on some of our IT infrastructure,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said in a statement. “This attack included communications to TransLink through a printed message.”
The ransomware attack on TransLink led to multi-day transit payment problems.
Back in 2016, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) confirmed that it was a victim of a ransomware attack. SFMTA said the ransomware attack affected approximately 900 office computers, and SFMTA's payroll system was temporarily affected. The transportation agency said no data was accessed from any of its servers.
What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that encrypts victims’ files, preventing victims from accessing their files. Ransomware attackers demand ransom payment from victims in exchange for the decryption tool that promises to unlock the encrypted files.
A few years back, there was no transparency on whether ransomware attackers also steal data from victims. Today, ransomware attackers are open that aside from encrypting files, they also steal data from victims. The acknowledgment that ransomware attackers steal data from victims gives rise to double extortion, and lately triple extortion.
In triple extortion, ransomware attackers demand ransom payment for each of these attack tactics:
Ransomware attackers first demand ransom payment for the decryption tool that promises to unlock the encrypted files.
Ransomware attackers now acknowledge that before encrypting files, they exfiltrate or steal data. Many ransomware attackers now maintain a website that names ransomware victims. These victims are threatened that stolen data from their computer networks will be published online if payment for the non-publication of the stolen date won’t be paid.
What used to be a stand-alone attack, Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) has been made part of the whole attack process of some ransomware attackers. Darkside, the group behind the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack has been known to add DDoS attack to their attack tactics.
In a DDoS attack, attackers overwhelm the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of Internet traffic. One example of a DDoS attack is flooding a corporate website with malicious Internet traffic, preventing legitimate users from accessing the corporate website.
Adding DDoS on top of encryption and stealing data, adds pressure to IT staff who are already overwhelmed with the encryption and stolen data issues.
Security researchers also refer to ransomware triple extortion as an expansion of demand payments to victims’ customers, partners, and other third parties. Vastaamo, a Psychotherapy Center in Finland with nearly 40,000 patients, declared bankruptcy after attackers breached for nearly a year the Center’s computer network.
Attackers demand from Vastaamo to pay nearly half a million US dollars in Bitcoin. Patients’ personally identifiable information, including the actual written notes that therapists had taken, was stolen by the attackers. A few years after the breached period, attackers started sending extortion messages to the patients, asking them to pay a certain amount of money to prevent their data from being published. The attackers already leaked online the private data of hundreds of patients.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
Here are some cybersecurity best practices against ransomware attacks:
How to Prevent Supply-Chain Attacks
Kaspersky researchers recently reported that they continue to observe in the 3rd quarter of 2021 supply-chain attacks.
“We continue to see supply-chain attacks, including those of SmudgeX, DarkHalo and Lazarus,” Kaspersky researchers said in their “APT trends report Q3 2021.”
What Is Supply-Chain Attack?
Supply-chain attack is a type of cyberattack in which an attacker inserts malicious code into a legitimate software.
In a supply-chain attack, an attacker turns the compromised software into a Trojan horse. A Trojan horse is a type of malicious software (malware) that’s introduced onto a victim’s computer as it’s disguised as legitimate software.
In a supply-chain attack, by compromising a single software, attackers gain access to hundreds or hundreds of thousands of customers of a legitimate software.
The three common supply-chain attack techniques include hijacking updates, undermining code signing, and compromising open-source code. Attackers may use these three common supply-chain attack techniques simultaneously.
Supply-Chain Attacks Examples
DarkHalo is the name given by researchers to the group that launched the SolarWinds supply-chain attack. Other researchers call the group behind the SolarWinds supply-chain attack Nobelium.
SolarWinds supply-chain attack is one of the high-profile supply-chain attacks that was exposed in December 2020. According to SolarWinds, the "vulnerability" was inserted within the company's Orion products and existed in updates released between March and June 2020.
In a report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), SolarWinds said that nearly 33,000 of its more than 300,000 customers were Orion customers, and that fewer than 18,000 customers may have had installed the Orion product that contained the malicious code. One of the notable victims of the Solarwinds supply chain attack is Microsoft.
According to Kaspersky researchers, evidence suggests that DarkHalo had spent six months inside OrionIT’s networks to perfect their attack.
“In June, more than six months after DarkHalo had gone dark, we observed the DNS hijacking of multiple government zones of a CIS member state that allowed the attacker to redirect traffic from government mail servers to computers under their control – probably achieved by obtaining credentials to the control panel of the victims’ registrar,” Kaspersky researchers said. “When victims tried to access their corporate mail, they were redirected to a fake copy of the web interface. Following this, they were tricked into downloading previously unknown malware. The backdoor, dubbed Tomiris, bears a number of similarities to the second-stage malware, Sunshuttle (aka GoldMax), used by DarkHalo last year. ”
Kaspersky researchers called the supply-chain incident in which a threat actor modified a fingerprint scanner software installer package as SmudgeX. The fingerprint scanner software is used by government employees of a country in South Asia for attendance recording.
Kaspersky researchers said the threat actor changed a configuration file and added a DLL with a .NET version of a PlugX injector to the installer package. “On installation, even without network connectivity, the .NET injector decrypts and injects a PlugX backdoor payload into a new svchost system process and attempts to beacon to a C2 [command and control infrastructure],” Kaspersky researchers said.
The Trojanized installer version of the fingerprint scanner software appeared to have been staged on the distribution server from March to June, Kaspersky researchers said.
According to Kaspersky researchers, evidence showed that the threat group known as Lazarus is building supply-chain attack capabilities. The researchers said that one supply-chain attack from this threat group originated from a compromised legitimate South Korean security software.
Another supply-chain attack launched by this group, Kaspersky researchers said, stemmed from a hijacked asset monitoring solution software in Latvia.
The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), meanwhile, reported that in 2017, Kaspersky Antivirus was being used by a foreign intelligence service for spying. The U.S. government directed government offices to remove the vendor’s products from networks.
Cybersecurity Best Practices Against Supply-Chain Attacks
Supply-chain attacks aren’t easy to protect against. Your organization’s software vendors, even the top big IT software vendors, are as vulnerable to supply-chain attacks.
Here are some of the cybersecurity best practices against supply-chain attacks:
Supply-chain attackers target not just software. They also target hardware. Attackers compromised hardware components with the end view of compromising hardware users. In 2016, attackers hijacked the design of a mobile phone. The phones sold to customers encrypted users’ text and call details and transmitted the data to a server every 72-hours.
Most of the cybersecurity best practices against software supply-chain attacks also apply to hardware supply-chain attacks.
How to Implement Best Cyber Defense Against BlackMatter Ransomware Attacks
Three U.S. government agencies, the Cybersecurity, and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA), recently issued a cyber security alert and defense tips against BlackMatter ransomware attacks.
What Is BlackMatter Ransomware?
BlackMatter is a relatively new ransomware. It was first observed in the wild in July 2021. This new ransomware exhibits the typical features of a modern-day ransomware, including the double extortion modus operandi.
In double extortion, the ransomware group steals data from victims. After stealing data, the attackers then encrypt victims’ data, preventing victims from accessing their data. After data encryption, attackers demand from victims ransom payment in exchange for a decryption tool that purportedly would unlock the encrypted data.
In double extortion, failure on the part of the victims to pay the ransom payment for the decryption tool leads to the activation of the second ransom demand, that is, victims are named on a leak site as victims of ransomware attacks. These victims are then threatened that their data will be published in case they won’t pay ransom.
Some ransomware actors still demand the second ransom payment – for the non-publication of the stolen data – despite the payment of the first ransom payment, that is, payment for the decryption tool.
Like other modern-day ransomware, BlackMatter ransomware is operated under the scheme called ransomware-as-service (RaaS). In RaaS, the ransomware developer (the one who creates the ransomware custom exploit code) works with affiliates – a different kind of cyberattackers who have existing access to corporate networks.
In a public advertisement posted on the underground forum Exploit, BlackMatter said it wants to buy access to corporate networks in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain.
The group further said that it’s willing to pay $3,000 to $100,000 per network, provided the network passed the following criteria:
To signify that it's serious about its offer, BlackMatter has deposited 4 bitcoins ($256,000) on the forum Exploit.
“The [BlackMatter] ransomware is provided for several different operating systems versions and architectures and is deliverable in a variety of formats, including a Windows variant with SafeMode support (EXE / Reflective DLL / PowerShell) and a Linux variant with NAS support: Synology, OpenMediaVault, FreeNAS (TrueNAS). According to BlackMatter, the Windows ransomware variant was successfully tested on Windows Server 2003+ x86/x64 and Windows 7+ x64 / x86,” Recorded Future reported. “The Linux ransomware variant was successfully tested on ESXI 5+, Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOs. Supported file systems for Linux include VMFS, VFFS, NFS, VSAN.”
On BlackMatter website, the group said it doesn't attack hospitals, critical infrastructure, oil and gas industry, defense industry, non-profit companies, and government sector.
According to the joint cybersecurity advisory by CISA, FBI, and NSA, since July 2021, BlackMatter ransomware has targeted multiple U.S. critical infrastructure entities, including two food and agriculture sector organizations in the U.S., and have demanded ransom payments ranging from $80,000 to $15,000,000 in cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Monero.
In September 2021, BlackMatter attacked the U.S. farmers cooperative NEW Cooperative and demanded from the victim $5.9 million for the decryptor and for the non-publication of the stolen data.
"Your website says you do not attack critical infrastructure,” a NEW Cooperative representative told BlackMatter during a negotiation chat (screenshots of the said negotiation chat were shared online). “We are critical infrastructure... intertwined with the food supply chain in the US. If we are not able to recover very shortly, there is going to be very very public disruption to the grain, pork, and chicken supply chain."
BlackMatter Ransomware Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures
The CISA, FBI, and NSA advisory said that sample of BlackMatter ransomware analyzed in a sandbox environment as well from trusted third-party reporting showed that BlackMatter ransomware uses the following tactics, techniques, and procedures:
Cybersecurity Best Practices
The CISA, FBI, and NSA advisory recommends the following cybersecurity defense tips against BlackMatter ransomware attacks:
Microsoft recently revealed that one of its Azure customers was hit by a 2.4 Tbps distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack last August.
In the blog post “Business as usual for Azure customers despite 2.4 Tbps DDoS attack,” Amir Dahan Senior Program Manager at Microsoft’s Azure Networking said the 2.4 Tbps DDoS attack is 140 percent higher than 2020’s 1 Tbps attack and higher than any network volumetric event previously detected on Azure.
Dahan said the 2.4 Tbps DDoS attack on Azure infrastructure originated from approximately 70,000 sources and from multiple countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and China, as well as from the United States.
“The attack vector was a UDP reflection spanning more than 10 minutes with very short-lived bursts, each ramping up in seconds to terabit volumes,” Dahan said. “In total, we monitored three main peaks, the first at 2.4 Tbps, the second at 0.55 Tbps, and the third at 1.7 Tbps.”
With the adoption of cloud services, Dahan said, “Bad actors, now more than ever, continuously look for ways to take applications offline.’
In the blog post "Azure DDoS Protection—2021 Q1 and Q2 DDoS attack trends," Alethea Toh Program Manager at Microsoft’s Azure Networking reported that the first half of 2021 saw a sharp increase in DDoS attacks on Azure resources per day. Toh said Microsoft’s Azure mitigated an average of 1,392 DDoS attacks per day in the first half of 2021, the maximum reaching 2,043 attacks on May 24, 2021.
“In total, we mitigated upwards of 251,944 unique [DDoS] attacks against our global infrastructure during the first half of 2021,” Toh said.
Toh added that in the first half of 2021, the average DDoS attack size was 325 Gbps, with 74 percent of the attacks being 30 minutes or less and 87 percent being one hour or less.
In 2020 Google, meanwhile, revealed a 2.5 Tbps DDoS attack on its infrastructure. In the blog post “Exponential growth in DDoS attack volumes,” Damian Menscher, Security Reliability Engineer at Google, said that Google’s infrastructure was hit by a 2.5 Tbps DDoS attack in September 2017. This 2.5 Tbps DDoS attack on Google infrastructure, Menscher said, was a culmination of a six-month campaign that utilized multiple methods of attack, simultaneously targeting Google’s thousands of IPs.
“The attacker used several networks to spoof 167 Mpps (millions of packets per second) to 180,000 exposed CLDAP, DNS, and SNMP servers, which would then send large responses to us,” Menscher said.
Top Attack Vectors
DDoS is a type of cyberattack that floods targets with gigantic traffic volumes with the aim of choking network capacity.
“While UDP attacks comprised the majority of attack vectors in Q1 of 2021, TCP overtook UDP as the top vector in Q2,” Toh of Microsoft's Azure said. “From Q1 to Q2, the proportion of UDP dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent, while the proportion of TCP increased from 48 percent to 60 percent.”
According to Toh, in Q1 of 2021, a total of 33% attack vectors came from UDP flood, 24% from TCP other flood, 21% from TCP ACK flood, 11% from UDP amplification, 7% from IP protocol flood, 3% from TCP SYN flood.
For Q2 of 2021, Toh said, a total of 23% attack vectors came from UDP flood, 29% from TCP other flood, 28% from TCP ACK flood, 10% from UDP amplification, 6% from IP protocol flood, and 3% from TCP SYN flood.
In January, Toh said, Microsoft Windows servers with Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) enabled on UDP/3389 were being abused to launch UDP amplification attacks, with an amplification ratio of 85.9:1 and a peak at approximately 750 Gbps.
In February, Toh said, video streaming and gaming customers were getting hit by Datagram Transport Layer Security (D/TLS) attack vector which exploited UDP source port 443.
In June, Toh said, reflection attack iteration for the Simple Service Delivery Protocol (SSDP) emerged. SSDP normally uses source port 1900. The new mutation, Toh said, was either on source port 32414 or 32410, also known as Plex Media Simple Service Delivery Protocol (PMSSDP).
Cybersecurity Best Practices
Organizations with internet-exposed workloads are vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Some DDoS attacks focus on a specific target from application layer (web, DNS, and mail servers) to network layer (routers/switches and link capacity). Some DDoS attackers may not focus on a specific target, but rather, attack every IP in your organization’s network.
Microsoft and Google have their own DDoS mitigating measures that can absorb multi-terabit DDoS attacks. On the part of Google, the company said it reported thousands of vulnerable servers to their network providers, and also worked with network providers to trace the source of the spoofed packets so they could be filtered.
Small and medium-sized organizations can now avail of a DDoS protection solution that can absorb multi-terabit DDoS attacks. Today’s DDoS protection solution operates autonomously, without human intervention. Failure to protect your organization’s resources from DDoS attacks can lead to outages and loss of customer trust.
We can also help in preventing DDoS attacks from happening by ensuring that our computers and IoT devices are patched and secured.
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP