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How DDoS Threat Landscape Has Evolved Over Time
Through the years, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) – a form of cyberattack originating from multiple systems and overwhelming one specific service or website using malicious data or requests – has evolved and grown stronger and more prevalent.
Evolution of the DDoS Threat Landscape
The Morris Worm
DDoS threat has been around ever since humanity decided to interconnect computers. The malicious software dubbed as “Morris worm”, which was unleashed prior to the invention of the World Wide Web, is considered by some as the first DDoS attack.
Morris worm replicated a copy of itself and propagated itself at a remarkable speed to computers belonging to a number of the prestigious colleges and public and private research centers that made up the ARPANET – an early prototype for the internet. On November 2, 1988, in just 24 hours, the Morris worm affected an estimated 6,000 of the approximately 60,000 computers that were then connected to ARPANET.
The unleashing of the Morris worm resulted in slowing to a crawl vital military and university functions and delayed emails for days. The creator of the Morris worm, then 23-year-old Cornell University graduate student Robert Tappan Morris unleashed out the worm by exploiting security vulnerabilities in a specific version of the Unix operating system. The worm was also unleashed by attempting to break into user accounts on an infected machine using brute force attacks, that is, guessing weak passwords similar to modern-day brute force attacks.
MafiaBoy DDoS Attack
While not the first DDoS attack in the World Wide Web era, the DDoS attacks carried out by MafiaBoy, then 15-year old Michael Calce from Montreal, Canada, were notable as this teenager launched a series of high-profile DDoS attacks in February 2000 against large commercial websites, including eBay, Amazon and E*Trade. In carrying out his DDoS attacks, Calce modified the code written by another hacker. Calce compromised nearly 200 university networks and brought this under his control to launch DDoS attacks against specific targets.
In the book "Mafiaboy: A Portrait of the Hacker as a Young Man", Calce wrote that he scanned the internet for university-owned servers withsecurity weaknesses that he could exploit. "Once I found at least one, I ran a program I had found called Hunter to hijack that computer's connection."
In the age of Internet of Things (IoT), the DDoS attacks carried out Mirai stand out. Mirai is a malicious software (malware) that compromises poorly secured IoT devices such as wireless routers and security cameras into a botnet to conduct large-scale DDoS attacks. A botnet refers to a network of compromised computers coordinating as one to carry out instructions at the direction of their master – a malicious threat actor.
On September 30, 2016, Mirai source code was leaked online by one of its authors, Paras Jha. The Mirai source code was later used by different malicious actors in launching DDoS attacks.
Mirai exploits the habit of IoT users of not changing the default login details. At its height, nearly 400,000 IoT devices were hijacked by Mirai for DDoS attacks.
One notable DDoS attack utilizing the Mirai source code was the DDoS attack on internet infrastructure services provider Dyn DNS (now Oracle DYN) in October 2016. The DDoS attack on this internet infrastructure, which enslaved 100,000 devices including IP cameras and printers, disrupted the services of major websites such as Amazon, Netflix, Reddit, Spotify and Twitter.
Memcached-Based DDoS Attacks
In February 2018, DDoS attackers used a new attack method that exploited a lesser number of devices but produced a bigger punch. GitHub reported on February 28, 2018 that GitHub.com was unavailable from 17:21 to 17:26 UTC and intermittently unavailable from 17:26 to 17:30 UTC due to a DDoS attack. The DDoS attack on GitHub peaked at 1.35 Tbps – then setting the record of the largest DDoS attack.
In analyzing the DDoS attack on GitHub, Cloudflare reported that the attack on GitHub exploited 5,729 memcached servers that were inadvertently made accessible on the internet. Memcached is an open-source distributed memory caching system for speeding up applications.
"Launching such an attack [by exploiting Memcached] is easy," Cloudflare said. "First the attacker implants a large payload on an exposed memcached server. Then, the attacker spoofs the 'get' request message with target Source IP. In practice, we've seen a 15 byte request result in a 750kB response (that's a 51,200x amplification)."
With nearly 100,000 Memcached servers exposed to the internet, Cloudflare said at that time that it's expecting to see much larger attacks in the future.
Days after the GitHub attack, NetScout reported an even larger DDoS attack, victimizing a US-based service provider. This time peaking at 1.7Tbps. "The attack utilized a Memcached ... Reflection & Amplification vector to accomplish such a massive attack," NetScout said.
CLDAP-Based DDoS Attack
In the 1st quarter of 2020, Amazon reported that in February of this year, it detected and mitigated a DDoS attack targeting an AWS customer. The DDoS attack, Amazon said, peaked at 2.3 Tbps and caused three days of “elevated threat".
According to Amazon, the DDoS attack on one of its AWS customers exploited Connection-less Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (CLDAP) web servers. CLDAP is used to connect, search, and modify internet-shared directories. DDoS attackers have made CLDAPexploitation as part of their arsenal since 2016.
Imperva's 2019 Global DDoS Threat Landscape Report found that large-scale DDoS attacks were outside of the norm. "Overall, we saw attacks that were smaller, shorter, and more persistent," Imperva said. "While this trend may be indicative of attackers’ attempts to wreak havoc before a mitigation service kicks in, it’s no match for Imperva, where time to mitigation is near zero."
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‘Wiping & Ransom’ Attack Targets Cloud Data Stored in MongoDB Databases
Data stored in the cloud isn't off limits to cybercriminals. A new report showed that a malicious actor held for ransom nearly half of all MongoDB databases exposed online.
A recent ZDNet report showed that a malicious actor has uploaded ransom notes on 22,900 MongoDB databases left exposed online without a password. This nearly 23,000 MongoDB databases represents nearly 47% of all MongoDB databases exposed online.
MongoDB is a document database in which documents can be searched by their field’s key, making this type of database flexible. This database can be deployed, operated and scaled in the cloud via cloud hosting services.
The report showed that the attacker scanned the internet using an automated script to search for exposed MongoDB databases; contents of the exposed databases were then wiped out; and victims were asked to pay 0.015 bitcoin (approximately USD 136 as of July 4, 2020).
The attacker then gave victims 2 days to pay the ransom to get back their wiped data and further threatened to leak victims' data in case of non-payment of the ransom. The attacker also threatened victims that the data leak will be reported to the local General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement authority.
Under GDPR, organizations that are found to have failed to protect customers’ private data and such failure lead to a data breach could receive a hefty fine from local enforcement authority. In July 2019, UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced its intention to fine British Airways £183.39m under GDPR for data breach. In July 2019 also the ICO similarly announced its intention to fine Marriott International, Inc. more than £99 million under GDPR for data breach.
Victor Gevers, a security researcher at the GDI Foundation, told ZDNet that the initial attacks didn't include the data wiping step. The wiping feature, Gevers said, was later added to the malicious actor's arsenal in attacking MongoDB databases. The ZDNet report said that the series of attacks on MongoDB databases started back in December 2016.
In a January 2017 blog post, Andreas Nilsson, Director of Product Security at MongoDB, acknowledged the attacks on unsecured MongoDB databases running openly on the internet. Said attacks, Nilsson said, erased database content and demanded from victims to pay ransom before the content can be restored.
In September 2017, Davi Ottenheimer, who leads the Product Security at MongoDB, in a blog post said that the company is aware of a new wave of attacks searching for misconfigured and unmaintained MongoDB databases. Ottenheimer said that the compromised MongoDB databases were left unsecured and connected to the internet with no password on their administrator account. This new wave of attacks, Ottenheimer said, doesn't indicate a new risk, just new targets.
"This [wiping and ransom of MongoDB databases] is not ransomware. Database does not get encrypted. It only gets replaced," Gevers told Bleeping Computer. "This is someone who does [this] manually or with a simple Python script."
According to Gevers, thousands of MongoDB databases are left exposed without a password online as these MongoDB instances used the old version of the MongoDB software in which the default configuration left the database open to external connections via the internet. "The most open and vulnerable MongoDBs can be found on the AWS platform because this is the most favorite place for organizations who want to work in a devops way," Gevers said. "About 78% of all these hosts were running known vulnerable versions."
How to Secure Data Stored in the Cloud
Unsecured and misconfigured data stored in the cloud isn't limited to MongoDB databases. In February 2018, BBC reported that security researchers have posted "friendly warnings" to users of Amazon's cloud data storage service whose private content has been made public to correct their settings that exposed data. "Please fix this before a bad guy finds it," one message left by security researcher said.
Here are some of the cybersecurity best practices in securing MongoDB databases deployed in the cloud via cloud hosting services and other data stored in different cloud platforms:
Like any online accounts, MongoDB databases deployed in the cloud and other data stored in the cloud via other cloud platforms need strong authentication methods. At the very least, protect the database with strong authentication method such as a strong password. These days cyberattacks often start with simple internet scanning. It’s important to protect cloud databases at its basic level with a strong password. It's also important to add extra layer of protection via multi-factor authentication.
The principle of least privilege is a security concept that limits access to the bare minimum to perform a task. For instance, a user is granted access only to specific database resources and operations and outside these defined role assignments, the user has no access to the other components of the database.
Use Firewall to control inbound and outbound traffic to your organization's databases. Use IP whitelisting to allow access only from trusted IP addresses.
It's important to keep a backup copy of the critical data stored in the cloud offline in case something happens beyond your organization's control that could prevent access to data stored in the cloud.
It's also important to audit data stored in the cloud, keeping track of the access and changes made to settings and data. A reliable audit system records these access and changes which can later on be used for forensic analysis and to make proper adjustments and controls.
Ontario and BC Privacy Commissioners Find LifeLabs Failed to Protect Personal Health Information of Millions of Canadians
Ontario and BC Privacy Commissioners Find LifeLabs Failed to Protect Personal Health Information of Millions of Canadians
A joint investigation by the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and British Columbia (BC) has found that Canadian laboratory testing company LifeLabs failed to protect the personal health information of millions of Canadians resulting in a data breach in 2019.
In a statement, the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC said the two offices found that LifeLabs failed to take reasonable steps to protect the personal health information in its electronic systems; failed to have adequate information technology security policies in place; and collected more personal health information than was reasonably necessary. LifeLabs is the largest provider of general health diagnostic and specialty laboratory testing services in Canada. It conducts over 100 million laboratory tests annually and supports 20 million patient visits annually. Its website is visited by more than 2.3 million Canadians to access their laboratory results each year.
According to the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC, on November 1, 2019, LifeLabs reported a cyberattack on their computer systems to the two offices. The cyberattack affected approximately 15 million LifeLab customers, including name, address, email, customer logins and passwords, health card numbers, and laboratory test results. Affected customers were mostly from Ontario and British Columbia.
The two offices issued the following orders to LifeLabs: improve specific practices regarding information technology security; put in place written information practices and policies with respect to information technology security; and cease collecting specified information and to securely dispose of the records of that information which it has collected.
“Our investigation revealed that LifeLabs failed to take necessary precautions to adequately protect the personal health information of millions of Canadians, in violation of Ontario’s health privacy law," Brian Beamish, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, said in a statement. "This breach should serve as a reminder to organizations, big and small, that they have a duty to be vigilant against these types of attacks."
“LifeLabs exposed British Columbians, along with millions of other Canadians, to potential identity theft, financial loss, and reputational harm,” Michael McEvoy, Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, said in a statement. “The orders made are aimed at making sure this doesn’t happen again. This investigation also reinforces the need for changes to BC’s laws that allow regulators to consider imposing financial penalties on companies that violate people’s privacy rights. This is the very kind of case where my office would have considered levying penalties.”
Last March 25, the Ontario government amended its health privacy law, making it the first province in Canada to give the Information and Privacy Commissioner the authority to levy monetary penalties against those who violate Ontario's Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).
According to the Ontario and B.C. privacy commissioners, to date, they still can't release the full report of their findings as LifeLabs asserted that the information that it provided to the commissioners is privileged or otherwise confidential. The privacy commissioners said they intend to publish the full report unless Lifelabs takes court action.
LifeLabs, for its part, said it's reviewing the report’s findings of the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia. "We cannot change what happened, but we assure you that we have made every effort to provide our customers with service they can rely upon," LifeLabs said.
According to LifeLabs, one of the changes made as a result of the cyberattack on its IT systems is the appointed of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Information Officer. The company added that it has enhanced and accelerated its Information Security Management program with an initial $50 million investment to achieve ISO 27001 certification – a gold standard in information security management.
Stealing of Data and Ransom Demand
According to the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC, LifeLabs told the two offices in November 2019 that the cyberattacker or cyberattackers on LifeLabs penetrated the company’s systems, extracted data and demanded a "ransom".
In December 2019, Charles Brown, LifeLabs' president and CEO, in a statement, admitted to "retrieving the data by making a payment". "We did this [paying the ransom] in collaboration with experts familiar with cyber-attacks and negotiations with cyber criminals...."
To date, based on the statements of the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Ontario and BC as well as LifeLabs, there’s no mention of the word "ransomware". Due to this lack of information, the cyberattack on LifeLabs may or may not be a ransomware attack.
What is clear though is that the cyberattack on LifeLabs involved stealing of data, ransom demand, and in this case, a ransom payment. There are currently over a dozen ransomware groups that openly admit that they don't merely demand ransom to decrypt (unlock) encrypted (lock) files, but they also steal data and leverage this stolen data in case the ransomware victim refuses to pay ransom for the purpose of decryption.
Several months ago, the ransomware called "Maze" started the trend of naming and shaming ransomware victims that refuse to pay ransom for the purpose of decrypting the encrypted files. The group behind the Maze ransomware created a website that names ransomware victims that refuse to pay ransom and further threatens victims that continued refusal to pay ransom will result in the publication of the data stolen prior to the data encryption.
The group behind the ransomware called "REvil", also known by the name "Sodinokibi", recently created an e-bay-like auction site, auctioning the files of ransomware victims that continued to refuse to pay ransom. The REvil ransomware group auctioned the stolen files of a Canadian agricultural production company, one of its ramsomware victims that continue to refuse to pay ransom. The group offered 3 databases and 22,000 files stolen from the agricultural company to the successful bidder.
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Amazon Records 2.3 Tbps DDoS Attack, Largest To Date
Amazon recently revealed that it detected and mitigated the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack to date, targeting one of Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers.
In the "AWS Shield Threat Landscape Report – Q1 2020", Amazon said its threat protection service called "AWS Shield" detected and mitigated a DDoS attack in one of AWS customers with a previously unseen volume of 2.3 Tbps (terabytes per second). TBps refers to a data transmission rate equivalent to 1,000 gigabytes or 1,000,000,000,000 bytes per second.
In March 2018, NETSCOUT Arbor reported that it detected and mitigated the previous record holder for the largest DDoS attack which peaked at 1.7 Tbps, an attack targeted at a customer of a U.S. based service provider. The 1.7 Tbps DDoS attack came just heels after the previous record holder of the largest DDoS attack – an attack that specifically targeted GitHub in February 2018.
The AWS DDoS Attack
In a DDoS attack, multiple computers act as one unit to attack one target. Attackers often hijack and take control of vulnerable computers for the purpose of DDoS attacks by taking advantage of the security vulnerabilities or misconfigurations on these computers.
According to Amazon, the DDoS attack that targeted one of the company's AWS customers "caused 3 days of elevated threat during a single week in February 2020 before subsiding". Amazon said that the unnamed DDoS attacker or attackers utilized an amplification technique that takes advantage of the Connectionless Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (CLDAP) in launching the DDoS attack.
CLDAP is a cross-platform protocol and often used on Microsoft Active Directory networks to retrieve server information. From October 2016 to January 2017, Akamai reported that it detected and mitigated a total of 50 CLDAP reflection attacks, 33 of which exclusively used CLDAP reflection.
On January 7, 2017, Akamai said it detected and mitigated the largest DDoS attack using CLDAP reflection as the sole vector at the time, reaching peak bandwidth of 24 gigabytes per second (GBps), and peak packets per second of 2 million packets per second. Akamai added that the CLDAP protocol allows DDoS attacks to amplify 56 to 70 times.
"The query payload is only 52 bytes ...," Akamai said regarding thisJanuary 7, 2017 CLDAP reflection DDoS attack. "This means that, the Base Amplification Factor (baf) for the attack data payload of 3,662 bytes, and a query payload of 52 bytes, was 70x, although only one host was revealed to exhibit that response size. Post attack analysis showed that the average amplification during this attack was 56.89x."
The DDoS attack detected and mitigated by NETSCOUT Arbor and the DDoS attack on GitHub in 2018, meanwhile, were launched by taking advantage of internet-exposed Memcached protocol – a general-purpose distributed memory-caching system. Attack vectors of the topmost DDoS attacks are often used by DDoS-for-hire services in launching DDoS attacks.
In the case of the DDoS attack on GitHub, the amplification factor reached up to 51 times, which means that for each byte sent by the DDoS attacker, up to 51KB is sent toward the target. At the time of the GitHub DDoS attack, Shodan – a search engine that allows users to find specific types of computers connected to the internet using filters – reported 88,000 internet-exposed memcached servers.
In 2018, DDoS-for-hire services took advantage of the close to 100,000 memcached servers exposed to the internet. Since 2016 also, DDoS-for-hire services have been taking advantage of exposed CLDAP protocol.
In taking advantage of vulnerable computers with higher amplification or reflection factor, significant attack bandwidth can be produced with fewer compromised computers. Taking advantage of servers using CLDAP protocol and memcached protocol for reflection/amplification DDoS attacks work the same by sending spoofed requests to a vulnerable server, which then responds with a larger amount of data than the initial spoofed request, amplifying the volume of traffic.
Preventive and Mitigating Measures Against DDoS Attacks
DDoS attacks that are taking advantage of the CLDAP protocol start with servers that are exposed to the internet with port 389 open and listening. DDoS attackers simply scan the internet for these open port 389 and add these to a list of amplifiers or reflectors.
Don't be a part of the bigger DDoS reflection/amplification problem. If your organization doesn't need the CLDAP protocol, close this DDoS amplification egress by not exposing this protocol to the internet, that is, by blocking port 389. In the case of DDoS attacks taking advantage of exposed memcached servers, one of the prevented measures in preventing attackers in hijacking memcached servers for DDoS attacks is by disabling UDP.
Most often, however, DDoS attacks don’t reach the terabyte. According to Amazon, most of the DDoS events involving CLDAP protocol in the first quarter of 2020 was 43 Gbps.
While many DDoS attacks are non-terabyte attacks, such attacks still disrupt normal business operations and denying legitimate users access to victims’ IT infrastructure. Imperva’s 2019 Global DDoS Threat Landscape Report showed that most DDoS attacks were short, with 51% lasting less than 15 minutes. While most DDoS attacks were short, Imperva reported that the vast majority of DDoS attacks were persistent and aimed at the same targets. “Attackers either launched DDoS assaults in short streaks – two-thirds of targets were attacked up to five times – or were ultra-persistent, with a quarter of targets attacked 10 times or more,” Imperva reported.
Cyberattack Surface Widens As World Sees Increase in Remote Work
With much of the world now working remotely and likely to remain this way after the COVID-19 pandemic, the attack surface that could be exploited by cyberattackers has widened, a new study showed.
A new study by RiskIQ showed that with much of the global economy being run from homes, attackers now have far more access points to probe and exploit. Attack surface, as defined in the study, refers to everything that needs defending, starting from inside the corporate network and extending all the way to the internet and into the homes of workers working from home. RiskIQ identified the following attack areas:
Web-Based Attack Surface
Across the internet in just over two weeks, RiskIQ observed 2,959,498 new domains (equivalent to 211,392 per day) and 772,786,941 new unique hosts to the web (equivalent to 55,199,067 per day). New domains, also known as new websites, and new unique hosts to the web, according to RiskIQ, represent as possible targets for threat actors.
RiskIQ found that 2,480 of the Alexa top 10,000 domains were running at least one potentially vulnerable web component, and 8,121 potentially vulnerable web components in total were found in the Alexa top 10,000.
To highlight the attack surface faced by organizations, RiskIQ conducted a study on the companies that comprise the FTSE-30 – a group of 30 large-cap organizations in the UK. RiskIQ found that on average, each FTSE-30 organization has 324 expired certs, 25 SHA-1 certs, 743, potential test sites, 28 insecure login forms, 385 total insecure forms, 46 web frameworks with known vulnerabilities, 80 PHP 5.x instances with end of life (EOL) end of the year, and 664 web servers at release levels with known vulnerabilities.
In addition, last March, with the spike of online shopping due to COVID-1, RiskIQ reported that it detected a 30% increase in Magecart skimmers – a type of cyberattack that involves digital credit card theft by skimming online payment forms.
Modern websites are made up of common features such as underlying operating systems, frameworks, third-party applications, plugins, and trackers. "This commonality of approach is attractive to malicious actors, as a successful exploit written for a vulnerability or exposure on one site can be reused across many sites," RiskIQ said.
A recent report from Verizon Data Breach Report, showed that external-facing web applications, in which network security tools have no visibility, were exploited the most by cyberattackers.
Remote Access Attack Surface
According to RiskIQ, the rush to stand up new systems outside the firewall to enable a remote workforce has expanded attack surfaces quicker, with virtual private network (VPN) usage surged 112% over just six weeks, and a 26.11% increase in Microsoft Remote Access Gateway instances, peaking around March 20 when stay-at-home orders took full effect.
RiskIQ found that on average, each FTSE-30 organization has 45 mail servers, 7,790 cloud-hosted apps (Amazon and Azure), 26 potentially vulnerable Citrix Netscaler instances, 8 potentially vulnerable Palo Alto GlobalProtect instances, 9 potentially vulnerable Pulse Connect instances, 25 potentially vulnerable Fortinet instances, and 1,464 remote access service instances.
Mobile Attack Surface
There's more to mobile apps than Apple and Google Play Mobile App Stores as there are hundreds of online stores in which threat actors sell their mobile apps. RiskIQ said malicious actors compromise legitimate apps and launch fake apps in other app store ecosystem and the open internet.
In 2019, RiskIQ found 170,796 blacklisted mobile apps across 120 mobile app stores and the open internet. Eighty-six percent of the blacklisted apps, RiskIQ said, claimed the READ_SMS permission, which allows the app to read messages and can be used for nefarious activities such as circumventing two-factor authentication.
Social Engineering Attack Surface
Social engineering refers to the impersonation of domains, subdomains, landing pages, websites, mobile apps, and social media profiles to trick employees and consumers in installing malicious software (malware) or into giving up login credentials and other personal information.
In the first quarter of 2020, RiskIQ identified 21,496 phishing domains impersonating 478 unique brands. For the same period, it also identified 720,188 instances of domain infringement across 170 unique brands. RiskIQ noted that 317,000 new websites related to “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in the two weeks between March 9 and 23.
Cybersecurity Best Practices in Securing Your Organization's Attack Surface
Traditional cybersecurity measure uses a firewall that acts as a barrier between a trusted internal network and untrusted external network such as the internet. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government-mandated stay-at-home measure leaving organizations no option but to allow workers to work from home, has widened the attack surface as the boundaries of what are inside the firewall and what are outside the firewall are no longer clear.
Here are some cybersecurity best practices in securing your organization's attack surface:
Whether it's for the web, mobile or operating systems, all software used for these platforms should be kept up to date. Failure to apply the latest software update leaves this attack surface vulnerable for attack.
Malicious actors can simply probe into your organization's vulnerable internet-connected assets by conducting a simple internet scan. It's important to conduct a regular full inventory of these internet-connected assets, determining, for instance, what assets need software update.
Early detection of social engineering attempts that impersonate your organization's domains, subdomains, landing pages, websites, mobile apps, and social media profiles that target your employees and customers and letting them know about these social engineering attempts is one of the effective measures in disrupting
REvil Ransomware Group Resorts to Auctioning Stolen Data
It's now a known fact that ransomware groups steal data prior to encrypting files and demanding ransom from victims.
The group behind the ransomware called "REvil", also known by the name "Sodinokibi", has recently flaunted its data-stealing capability by auctioning the stolen data of one of its ransomware victims that refuses to pay ransom.
On the dark web, the group behind the REvil ransomware created an e-bay-like auction site, auctioning the files of one of its victims that continued to refuse to pay ransom: a Canadian agricultural production company. The newly created auction site of REvil says that a successful bidder will receive 3 databases and 22,000 files stolen from the agricultural company.
The minimum deposit is set at USD$5,000 in virtual currency Monero, and the starting bidding price is USD$50,000. To date, the Canadian agricultural production company hasn't acknowledged the ransomware attack and the related stolen data.
Ransomware: More than Encryption
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that encrypts victims' computers or files, rendering these computers or files inaccessible to legitimate users. In a ransomware attack, a ransom note is shown on the victim’s computer screen that the only way to access the computer or files again is by paying a ransom, typically in the form of virtual currency.
In the past, ransomware victims aren't hesitant to acknowledge ransomware attacks. Often though in the victims' cyber incident reports and press releases, they assure affected clients or costumers that there's no need to worry as there's no evidence of data exfiltration.
The ransomware called "Maze" openly exposed the data exfiltration process that comes along in a ransomware attack. Maze ransomware is the first ransomware that publishes online the names of the victims that refused to acknowledge the ransomware attack on their systems and/or continues to refuse to pay the ransom.
The group behind Maze ransomware threatens the "shamed" victims that continued refusal to pay the ransom will result in the publication of the data stolen prior to the data encryption. Publication of stolen data led one of the victims of Maze ransomware to file a case in court against the group behind Maze ransomware.
Close to a dozen of other ransomware groups, including REvil, followed Maze's tactic of naming ransomware victims and threatening to publish victims' stolen data – an open acknowledgment that these ransomware groups steal data prior to encrypting files.
Microsoft Threat Protection Intelligence Team, in the blog post “Ransomware groups continue to target healthcare, critical services; here’s how to reduce risk", said that “while only a few of these [ransomware] groups gained notoriety for selling data, almost all of them were observed viewing and exfiltrating data during these attacks, even if they have not advertised or sold yet.”
Getting to Know REvil Ransomware
REvil Ransomware first appeared in the wild in April 2019. Exploiting software vulnerabilities, brute-forcing RDP access and using third-party software are some of the known strategies used by the group behind the REvil ransomware in gaining access to victims’ networks and eventually drop the ransomware.
Researchers at Cisco reported that the group behind the REvil ransomware has been exploiting CVE-2019-2725 since at least April 17, 2019 in installing the ransomware. CVE-2019-2725 is a security vulnerability in Oracle WebLogic. Oracle first patched this vulnerability on April 26, 2019. "This vulnerability is easy for attackers to exploit, as anyone with HTTP access to the WebLogic server could carry out an attack," researchers at Cisco said.
Researchers at McAfee Labs, meanwhile, reported that the group behind REvil ransomware initially gains access to victims' networks by brute-forcing RDP access in installing the ransomware. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft that allows a user to access Windows workstations or servers over the internet.
In a related report, McAfee Labs reported that the number of RDP ports exposed to the internet has grown from roughly three million in January 2020 to more than four and a half million in March. "RDP ports are often exposed to the Internet, which makes them particularly interesting for attackers," researchers at McAfee Labs said. "In fact, accessing an RDP box can allow an attacker access to an entire network, which can generally be used as an entry point for spreading malware, or other criminal activities."
Kaspersky Lab, meanwhile, reported that since the beginning of March 2020, the number of Bruteforce.Generic.RDP attacks has rocketed across almost the entire planet. In a brute force attack, attackers systematically try all possible username and password combinations until the correct combination is found.
Aside from exploiting software security vulnerabilities, brute-forcing RDP access, the group behind the REvil ransomware has also been known to install on the victims' networks the ransomware by using third-party software. In August 2019, the mayor of Keene, Texas revealed that the group behind the REvil ransomware managed to install the ransomware on the municipality’s network through a software that a third-party IT company used to manage the municipality’s network.
While the motive behind this new tactic of auctioning ransomware victims' stolen data isn't yet clear, the timing of the launching of this new tactic amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government-mandated home quarantine could mean that ransomware victims are refusing to pay ransom as they could've hardened their backup systems or that victims are hard-pressed in paying out ransomware attackers due to the economic fallout resulting in the on-going pandemic. Falling in the wrong hands, the auctioned stolen files could be used against victims and the victims’ customers.
Cybercriminals are not playing by rules and are winning in most cases. Protect your organization today by engaging with our expert team. Connect with us today.
Modern Threats Organizations Face in the Cloud
COVID-19 has made remote working the new normal. A recent report from McAfee showed that as more people worked remotely as a result of the COVID-19-induced shelter-in-place order, the use of collaboration cloud services has grown, replacing the now empty office computer desks and conference rooms.
The New Normal
Twitter recently announced that its employees can work from home forever. "The past few months have proven we can make that [work from home setup] work," Jennifer Christie, Vice President for People at Twitter. "So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen."
In Canada, a report from Statistics Canada showed that workers in industries where close contact with others is less necessary tended to do their job from home in April of this year and have experienced relatively fewer employment losses since February of this year and may find it easier to resume full activity through continuing work from home.
Collaboration Cloud Services Security Risks
As collaboration cloud services adoption increases, McAfee reported that the amount of threats from external actors targeting cloud collaboration services also increases. In the "Cloud Adoption and Risk Report", McAfee reported that from January to April 2020, overall cloud service usage increased by 50% across all industries.
The report also highlighted that for the same period, the use of collaboration cloud services has more than doubled, with Zoom (+350%), Microsoft Teams (+300%), and Slack (+200%) seeing some of the huge gains. While Zoom hugged the limelight in recent months, the report showed that Cisco Webex – another collaboration cloud service offering web conferencing and videoconferencing applications, experienced a 600% increase in usage during the same period.
The McAfee report found that from January to April 2020, the number of threats from external actors targeting cloud services increased by 630%, with most of the attacks concentrated on collaboration cloud services. McAfee defines external threats into two categories: excessive usage from anomalous location and suspicious superhuman.
Excessive Usage from Anomalous Location
McAfee defines excessive usage from anomalous location as a login attempt from a location that hasn't been previously detected, and the initialization of high-volume data access and/or privileged access activity. Suspicious superhuman, meanwhile, is defined as a login attempt from more than one distant locations that's impossible to travel to within a given period of time, for instance, a user attempts to log into Microsoft Office 365 in Singapore and same user logs into Slack in the U.S. five minutes later.
The McAfee report said it derived its data from "aggregated and anonymized" cloud usage data from more than 30 million McAfee MVISION Cloud users worldwide from January to April 2020. Compared to external threats, the report showed that the number of internal threats flatlined. Most of the attacks on the cloud are external, the report said, targeting cloud accounts directly.
Spraying Cloud Accounts
According to the report the excessive usage from anomalous location and suspicious superhuman are likely opportunistic "spraying" attacks. In spraying attacks, attackers use past stolen credentials in guessing the correct username and password combination.
Spraying attacks rely on the human weakness of reusing usernames and passwords. Attackers have easy access to these past stolen credentials. In January 2019, a total of 2.2 billion unique usernames and associated passwords was distributed for free on hacker forums and torrent sites.
Reliance on the Traditional Username and Password
Even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations had put in place a safety net in the way workers access corporate cloud services, particularly collaboration cloud services, through virtual private network (VPN). In today's new normal, the work from home setup, has brought about the increased usage of VPN in allowing remote workers to access corporate networks and corporate collaboration cloud tools such as Microsoft Office 365.
One of the reasons cited by McAfee in the "Cloud Adoption and Risk Report" for the continued reliance of the traditional username and password authentication when accessing collaboration cloud services is the ease of use of this traditional authentication method. "In reality, employees will do whatever is easiest and fastest," McAfee said. "They will turn off their VPN and access applications in the cloud directly."
Cybersecurity Best Practices in Protecting Collaboration Cloud Services
Here are some of the best practices in protecting collaboration cloud services from external threats:
The use of multi-factor authentication, an authentication method that grants a user access to a computer or a collaboration cloud service only after successfully presenting two or more proof, such that, in addition to the usual logging of username and password, an additional proof is necessary to gain access.
In the blog post "One simple action you can take to prevent 99.9 percent of attacks on your accounts", Melanie Maynes Senior Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft Security said that 99.9% of attacks can be blocked with multi-factor authentication.
It's important, however, to supplement multi-factor authentication with other security measures as there have been documented cases whereby multi-factor authentication can be bypassed.
One of the security measures in protecting your cloud's data is by limiting users' access to sensitive data. Privilege access to sensitive data that isn't required to the remote workers' line of work is a risk to your organization's online security. Remote workers especially those using their personal devices to access corporate collaboration cloud tools should be given only conditional access to sensitive data in the cloud.
Still Performing Old-school Vulnerability Assessments? Here’s What You’re Missing
Businesses live or die based on their IT infrastructure. No company can afford to underestimate the danger that a single network breach or hardware failure can cause. We’re talking about major downtime, disrupted productivity, missed targets, and unhappy clients turning to your competitors for faster solutions.
Vulnerability assessments are crucial to identify and mitigate IT risks. Innovators leverage cutting-edge technology to deliver assessments that protect companies against potential issues on a daily basis. But if you’re still performing old-school vulnerability assessments, you could be making your business more susceptible to problems than it has to be.
Here’s what you’re missing.
A proactive approach to mitigating risks
One of the most important reasons old-school vulnerability assessments are so dangerous is that system changes can render them irrelevant within a matter of hours. For businesses which still conduct annual assessments of their IT infrastructure, there’s a real danger that severe risks can be missed during those intervening months.
This encompasses different areas. First and foremost, there are cybersecurity threats to consider.
Your current security measures may become outdated between assessments and leave your business vulnerable to breaches by hackers. Research shows that in 60 percent of cases, vulnerabilities allowing unauthorized access could be fixed with a readily-available patch. On average, data breaches cost as much as $3.92 million on average.
Cybersecurity is one area of IT infrastructures which you must take seriously. Hackers’ methods evolve at a startling rate, forcing organizations to remain vigilant and take a proactive approach to their defenses.
Cutting-edge monitoring is ongoing. The latest security technologies mimic hackers’ processes and techniques to identify where action is required to combat breaches. This enables organizations to recognize the flaws of their current security and which steps are necessary to fix them.
Furthermore, cybersecurity vendors you work with are continuously evaluated to pinpoint when they fail to comply with your business’s security policies or when security levels change.
Old-school assessments just can’t live up to this level of insight and awareness. So much can change in the period between one check and another.
Third-party vendor monitoring
So much of modern business relies on third-party vendors. Businesses of all sizes utilize cloud-based solutions for everything from customer service and team communications to accounting. And that’s great, because quality vendors help organizations to streamline operations and automate time-consuming tasks.
But companies place a lot of trust in vendors to provide a safe, secure, efficient standard of service at all times. The best suppliers are committed to doing just that. But sometimes, some may fall short of expectations.
Running irregular assessments of suppliers’ activities and services means you may be unaware of any oversights or failures. For example, a supplier may have implemented changes that mean it no longer aligns with your internal security policies, but you have no idea of this because so many months have passed since you last checked.
Furthermore, you want to rest assured that all suppliers your business works with comply with official regulations and standards (such as GDPR or CCPA). Any failures here can leave you facing legal difficulties and potentially high costs.
The latest solutions enable you to create security and compliance questionnaires to find out how third-party vendors follow regulatory measures. They also help you to determine how suppliers align with your own policies. On top of all this, innovative solutions reveal gaps in security to suppliers to help them deliver a higher standard of service.
As a result, you can make better decisions about the brands you work with and avoid unnecessary legal challenges that can be so damaging to your credibility.
A heightened awareness of technical issues
Cybersecurity is far from the only danger an inefficient IT setup brings. If your hardware is outdated and overdue an upgrade, you could be at risk of technical failures. This is especially problematic if you store data on-site and never take advantage of cloud backup. You would be unable to recover crucial information and work in the aftermath of a disaster, such as a fire, flood, theft, etc.
And that brings all manner of problems. Employee, client, and financial data may all be exposed. Workflows would be heavily affected, reducing productivity and customer satisfaction. Significant financial impact could leave your business unable to keep operating as required.
Ongoing vulnerability assessments can determine how suitable your hardware and applications are for your business purposes. Old-school assessments conducted once or twice a year might not bring relevant issues to the surface until it’s too late. Leverage the latest assessment methods and technologies to protect your company against the risk of technical failures.
Understanding human error
Sadly, the people driving businesses are capable of making mistakes. This can be as simple as forgetting to update a password for a tool regularly or deleting a valuable field of data. But whatever the specifics, human error can make a sizable impact on a company’s security and performance.
In Canada’s legal and financial sectors, human error is cited as the biggest cause of data breaches, and a single mistake could open the door for hackers to gain unauthorized access to your network.
New vulnerability assessment solutions can incorporate human behavior to help recognize possible flaws, and help businesses take action to reduce their risk. For example, software and processes which have the potential to be confusing to users may be revised. Alternatively, training can be implemented to educate staff on software for greater peace of mind.
Old-school vulnerability assessments simply don’t offer the comprehensive insights which successful businesses need today. It’s not enough to check systems occasionally and trust them to work. Companies must take advantage of real-time data and detailed overviews to understand what risks they face in the digital age.
At The Driz Group, our expert team offers ongoing vulnerability assessments, penetration testing and third-party risk assessment as a service to identify issues with your infrastructure and protect your data accesses by third-party suppliers. This helps to remediate core IT risks and achieve maximum efficiency.
Lessons from the First Computer Pandemic: Love Bug
Twenty years ago, the world's first computer pandemic called the "Love Bug", also known as "ILOVEYOU" virus, wreaked havoc worldwide.
On May 4, 2000, in just a span of 24 hours, the Love Bug affected an estimated 45 million computers worldwide, causing an estimated US$10 billion in damages.
Tracking Down the Creator of ILOVEYOU Virus
BBC technology reporter Geoff White tracked down the creator of the ILOVEYOU virus working in a mobile phone repair shop inside a shopping mall in Manila. Onel de Guzman, now 44, admitted to White that he solely created the ILOVEYOU virus.
de Guzman told White that he unleashed the virus to steal passwords so he could access the internet without paying. He claims that he never intended the virus to spread globally and that he regrets the damage that the virus had caused. de Guzman was never charged with a crime as at the time when he unleashed the virus, the Philippines had no laws criminalizing malicious use of computers.
How the ILOVEYOU Virus Caused a Computer Pandemic
The ILOVEYOU virus arrives on the victim's computer via Outlook software. At the time, Outlook was the common means of sending and receiving emails.
The email's subject simply contains "ILOVEYOU", while the email's body contains these few words: "kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me". The email contains an attachment named "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT". "I figured out that many people want a boyfriend, they want each other, they want love, so I called it that," de Guzman said.
Once an email receiver clicks on the attached document, the virus makes copies of itself to the Windows System directory and to the Windows directory. It also adds itself to the registry for it to be executed when the system is restarted.
It also replaces the Internet Explorer home page with a link that downloads the program called "WIN-BUGSFIX.exe". This downloaded file is also added to the registry for this program to be executed once the system is restarted.
The downloaded file from the web is a password-stealing malicious software (malware) that calls the WNetEnumCashedPasswords function and sends stolen RAS passwords and all cached Windows passwords to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This virus spreads to other victims' computers via Outlook. The same email that arrives on the original victim's computer is mass emailed to everyone in the victim's Outlook address book. This virus spreads also via mIRC whenever another person joins an IRC channel where the infected user currently is logged in.
Other than stealing passwords and spreading itself, this virus performs the most destruction function: overwriting files. This virus looks for particular file types from all folders in all local and remote drives and overwrites them.
Similar to modern-day ransomware – malware that prevents victims' from accessing their computers or files, the ILOVEYOU virus denies victims access to their files. Unlike ransomware, where in some cases, the decryption keys given by attackers after ransom payment work in unlocking in locked files, in the ILOVEYOU virus, there's no way to unlock these files.
Many organizations lost a lot of data because of this overwrite function. The mass emailing function of the virus also overloaded many mail systems around the world.
Will There Be Another Computer Pandemic?
Time will tell if there'll be another computer pandemic.
If there'll be one it would be a bit different from de Guzman's creation. An attacker aiming to use a mass emailing virus via Outlook and other mail client software needs to take an extra step to run malicious attachments as current mail client software programs are more cautious in running script files unlike in the days when the ILOVEYOU virus was unleashed.
To date, the damage caused by the ILOVEYOU virus is unprecedented. The virus successfully played on mankind's need to be loved. In today's environment, where many are connected to the internet, another virus could turn into a computer pandemic, exploiting another of mankind's other needs.
The ILOVEYOU virus has taught the online world one thing: Next time, back up your files. Having a working back up prepares your organization for the next computer pandemic similar to the ILOVEYOU virus that overwrites or destroys victims' files.
There's also a need to protect these backups from attackers. In recent months, ransomware attackers have been known to go after victims' backups.
The group behind the ransomware called "DoppelPaymer" published on their leak site the admin username and password for a non-paying ransomware victim who used the Veeam cloud backup software. The group behind the ransomware called "eCh0raix" also went after QNAP NAS backup devices.
Protect your organization's backup devices by keeping it offline. If there's a need to connect these backup devices online, make sure to use strong authentication methods such as multi-factor authentication and to keep the backup device firmware up to date.
It’s also important to follow the time-tested 3-2-1 rule:
3: Keep 3 copies of any important file: 1 primary and 2 backups.
2: Keep the files on 2 different media types to protect against different types of hazards.
1: Store 1 copy offsite (for example, cloud backup).
Another attack scenario could come from a silent operator. The ILOVEYOU virus and the different shades of ransomware are overtly noticeable attacks. The next big thing or even one that we haven't noticed yet, could be one that silently lurks in millions of computers worldwide.
Security Risks Associated with Exposed RDP
A recent report from McAfee Labs showed that since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the number of exposed RDP has increased considerably.
RDP, short for Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), is a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft that runs on port 3389 and allows users the ability to connect to another computer over the internet. In the blog post "Cybercriminals Actively Exploiting RDP to Target Remote Organizations", McAfee Labs said that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations wanting to maintain operational continuity very likely allowed employees to access organizations’ networks remotely via RDP with minimal security checks in place, giving cyber attackers the opportunity to access these networks with ease.
According to McAfee Labs, the number of RDP ports exposed to the internet grew from approximately three million in January 2020 to more than four and a half million in March 2020. McAfee Labs derived this number of exposed RDP ports from a simple search on Shodan – a search engine that allows users to find internet-connected computers.
Exposed RDP Risks
RDP often runs on Windows server operating systems. Access to RDP box allows attackers access to an entire network.
RDP ports that are exposed to the internet are valuable to attackers as these ports allow them to enter organizations’ networks and conduct further malicious activities such as spreading malicious software (malware), including ransomware – a type of malware that encrypts computers or files, locking out legitimate users and forcing victims to pay ransom in exchange for decryption keys that will unlock these encrypted computers or files.
Other than spreading ransomware, compromised RDP ports can also be used to spread cryptominer – a type of malware that illicitly consumes the computing power of the compromised computer for the purpose of mining cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Monero.
Exposed RDP ports also allow attackers to conduct malicious activities such as hiding their tracks, for instance, by compiling their tools on the compromised computer. Attackers also used exposed RDP ports in carrying out other malicious activities in the victims’ networks such as theft of personal information, proprietary information or trade secrets.
How Cyberattackers Access Exposed RDP Ports
Below are some of the tactics used by attackers to enter exposed RDP ports:
According to McAfee Labs, it observed an increase in both the number of attacks against RDP ports and in the volume of RDP credentials (username and password combinations) sold on underground online markets. In the past, some of these RDP online shops were taken down by law enforcement agencies.
These RDP online shops sell RDP credentials at a very low cost. McAfee Labs earlier reported that the stolen RDP credential of a major international airport was sold in one of these RDP online shops for only US$10.
While RDP can be secured via multi-factor authentication, many users fail to use this added security measure. Failure to protect RDP via multi-factor authentication allows attackers to stage brute force attack – a type of attack that guesses the correct password through trial and error.
Password guesses via brute force attacks aren’t so random. According to McAfee Labs, data from a law enforcement agency and RDP online shops taken down by the law enforcement agency showed that weak passwords remain one of the common points of entry.
A number of RDP ports were broken into, McAfee Labs said, using the top 10 passwords. “What is most shocking is the large number of vulnerable RDP systems that did not even have a password,” McAfee Labs said. The following are part of the top 10 passwords used by RDP attackers: 123456, 123, P@sswOrd, 1234, Password1, password, 12345, 1 and test.
In recent months, RDP has also been riddled with security vulnerabilities. In August 2019, Microsoft disclosed the security vulnerability known as “BlueKeep”. This security vulnerability, officially designated as CVE-2019-0708 allows an unauthenticated attacker to connect to the target system using RDP and send specially crafted requests.
Microsoft warned that BlueKeep is “wormable”, which means that it can replicate and propagate by itself to create a large-scale outbreak similar to Conficker and WannaCry. Conficker has been estimated to have impacted 10 to 12-million computer systems worldwide, while WannaCry’s damage to computer systems in just one global enterprise was estimated at $300 million.
Two other security vulnerabilities in RDP were disclosed by Microsoft in recent months: CVE-2020-0609 and CVE-2020-0610. Similar to BlueKeep, CVE-2020-0609 and CVE-2020-0610 allow an unauthenticated attacker to connect to the target system using RDP and send specially crafted requests.
According to Dustin Childs of Zero Day Initiative, while not as widespread as systems affected by Bluekeep, CVE-2020-0609 and CVE-2020-0610 present an attractive target for attackers as these vulnerabilities are wormable – at least between RDP Gateway Servers.
Best Practices in Protecting Exposed RDP Ports
Here are some of the best practices in protecting RDP ports:
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP