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What Are Watering Hole Attacks & How to Prevent Such Attacks
Watering hole attacks are becoming more and more popular as these allow malicious actors to compromise intermediary targets to gain access to their intended final targets.
What Is Watering Hole Attack and How It Works
In a watering hole attack, a malicious actor compromises a third-party service, such as a publicly available website, in order to get access to the intended final target. There are various reasons why threat actors attack third-party services instead of the intended final targets. It could be that the intended final targets have stronger cyber defences, while third-party services lack the necessary cyber defences.
In watering hole attacks, threat actors study the employees of the intended final targets, such as finding out what sites these employees often visit. These sites are then analysed.
Sites with weak defences are often targeted, injecting these sites with malicious software (malware) or redirecting visitors to sites controlled by the attackers, leading to the downloading of the malware when these employees visit these sites. Attackers may also nudge an employee into visiting the compromised website or the URL they control by tricking the employee to click on the malicious link contained in a phishing email.
Once inside an employee’s device, threat actors then move toward the intended final target.
Examples of Watering Hole Attacks
The recent disclosure by researchers at Google's Threat Analysis Groupabout a small collection of compromised websites used in watering hole attacks which ultimately targets site visitors using certain versions of iPhones highlights the growing danger of watering hole attacks.
Researchers at Google's Threat Analysis Group revealed that over a period of at least two years, almost every version of iOS 10 through iOS 12 was potentially vulnerable when users visit a small collection of compromised websites. Simply visiting the compromised site, the researchers said, was enough for the exploit server to attack the vulnerable iPhones and install a malicious code that monitors the users’ activities.
The researchers estimated that the compromised sites receive thousands of visitors each week. In attacking the specific versions of iPhones, researchers at Google's Threat Analysis Group said, they identified a total of 14 security vulnerabilities: 7 for the iPhone’s web browser, 5 for the kernel and 2 separate sandbox escapes.
Other Cases of Legitimate Sites Used for Watering Hole Attacks
In late February and early March this year, reports came out that the website of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was used as an intermediary target for a watering hole attack where the intended final targets were ICAO members. Montreal, Canada-based ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation.
In November 2018, researchers at ESETreported that 21 distinct websites in Vietnam and Cambodia, including Ministry of Defense of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia and several Vietnamese newspaper websites, were used as intermediary targets in watering hole attacks.
According to the researchers, the modus operandi is similar on all compromised websites in which the attackers add a small piece of malicious code on the compromised websites. While not applicable in all cases, the researchers reported that the code injected into the compromised websites checks for the visitor’s location, and only visitors from Vietnam and Cambodia actually receive the malware. The researchers added that the server controlled by the attackers can send additional payload – referring to the malware that performs the actual malicious actions.
Researchers at ESET said they weren’t able to identify examples of payloads sent by the attackers as these payloads were only delivered to specific targets and it wasn’t possible to get them using a test machine. In November 2017, researchers at Volexityfound a similar set of compromised websites of individuals and organizations tied to the government, the media, human rights and civil society groups. The researchers, in these cases, found that the payloads downloaded unto the site visitor’s computer include a pop-up asking to approve OAuth access to the victim’s Google account. This tactic allows attackers to get access to the victim’s contacts and emails.
The recent watering hole attacks are reminiscent of the cyber-espionage campaign called “Epic Turla”. In August 2014, Kaspersky observed 100 compromised websites for watering hole attacks.
Once a computer is infected with the Epic malware, Kaspersky reported that the malware immediately connects to the command-and-control (C&C) server to deliver pre-configured series of commands for execution and custom lateral movement tools such as a keylogger – a malicious program aimed at stealing data by recording every keystroke made by a computer user.
Prevention and Mitigating Measures
Here are some cyber security measures in order to prevent or mitigate the effects of watering hole attacks:
Wikipedia and World of Warcraft Classic Targeted for DDoS Attacks
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) again made the headlines over the weekend with the attacks on the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia and popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft Classic. These latest incidents show that malicious actors are continually targeting vulnerable devices and online services for DDoS attacks.
In a statement released last September 7, Wikimedia Foundation, said that Wikipedia was hit with a “malicious attack”, making the site inaccessible to site visitors in several countries for intermittent periods. Wikimedia Deutschland, meanwhile, outrightly called the attack as “DDoS attack”, announcing via its Twitter account that Wikimedia servers, on which Wikipedia is also hosted, are being “paralyzed by a massive and very broad DDoS attack”.
According to the report by the civil society group NetBlocks, Wikipedia became intermittently unavailable as of approximately 6:00 p.m. UTC September 6, 2019 and at 1:30 a.m. UTC, the attack extended to a near-total outage in the United States and much of the world, continuing up until 2:40 a.m. UTC.
Last September 7 also, Blizzard Entertainment, owner of the World of Warcraft Classic, via its Twitter account said, “Some online services continue to be impacted by a series of DDoS attacks which are resulting in high latency and disconnections.”
It isn’t yet confirmed whether the DDoS attacks on Wikipedia and World of Warcraft Classic are related. A Twitter account claiming responsibility on the DDoS attacks on Wikipedia and World of Warcraft Classic was taken down by Twitter.
DDoS Attacks Prevalence
Wikipedia and Blizzard Entertainment are no stranger to DDoS attacks. On May 15, 2019, NetBlocksreported that Wikipedia became temporarily unavailable internationally. NetBlocks said that its global internet observatory data showed that the incident wasn’t related to filtering or blocking, and was rather likely caused by a DDoS attack.
NetBlocks said that DDoS attacks are distinct from state filtering or blocking, as these attacks have broader international impact but typically last for short periods. Wikipedia is totally blocked in Turkey, is varyingly restricted in China, and was briefly filtered in Venezuela early this year.
In August 2017, meanwhile, Blizzard Entertainmentreported another set of DDoS attacks on its networks. No person or group has taken responsibility for the 2017 DDoS attacks on Blizzard Entertainment and May 2019 incident on Wikipedia.
Real-time gaming networks have been favorite DDoS targets by malicious actors. In August 2014, Sony’s PlayStationnetworks were taken offline as a result of a DDoS attack. The threat group called “Lizard Squad” claimed responsibility over the Sony’s PlayStation networks DDoS attack.
KrebsOnSecurityreported that Lizard Squad controlled a botnet comprised of hacked home routers and commercial routers at universities and companies from around the globe. A botnet is a group of computers infected with the same malicious software (malware) and controlled by a threat actor or actors for the purpose of conducting malicious activities such as DDoS attacks. KrebsOnSecurity reported the botnet controlled by Lizard Squad group drew internet bandwidth from routers around the globe by exploiting the use of factory-default usernames and passwords.
The Mirai botnet, a much bigger botnet, which at its height controlled hundreds of thousands of IoT devices such as routers and CCTV cameras, brought down a big chunk of the internet for most of the U.S. east coast as a result of the DDoS attack on Dyn, an internet infrastructure company.
The recent Wikipedia DDoS attack, according to NetBlocks, is understood to have been amplified through insecure devices.
Prevention and Mitigation
In a DDoS attack, both the owners of computers or Internet of Things (IoT) devices and owners of targeted online services play an important role. IoT, such as routers, small as they are, are also computers. Owners of these devices, however, don’t view these devices like typical computers such as laptops, with many owners leaving these devices vulnerable to attacks by opting to use the default-factory login details.
The threat of DDoS attack is real as malicious actors have the technology to control not just IoT devices but ordinary computers as well. French authorities and antivirus solution provider Avastrecently took down the botnet called “Retadup”, which controlled nearly a million computers worldwide. It isn’t yet known how the Retadup malware initially infected these nearly one million computers.
In an ideal world, owners of IoT devices and internet-facing desktop or laptop computers have the responsibility to protect these computers from being used as an army for DDoS attacks by practicing basic cyber hygiene such as changing default-factory usernames and passwords and by applying the latest security updates.
DDoS protection is all the more important in organizations that rely on providing online services. While your organization may have no control over the cyber hygiene of other IoT devices, desktop and laptop users, your organization can undertake cyber security measures in order to mitigate the effects of DDoS attacks.
Mitigating measures against DDoS attacks are broadly categorized into do-it-yourself (DIY) methods, on-premise mitigation appliances and off-premise cloud-based solutions. DIY methods, such as manual IP blacklisting, is often a reactionary measure in response to a successful first DDoS attack that already caused hours of downtime.
On-premise mitigation appliances refer to hardware appliances deployed inside a network and placed in front of protected servers. Compared to DIY methods, on-premise mitigation appliances have advanced traffic filtering capabilities such as geo-blocking, rate limiting, IP reputation and signature identification.
Off-premise cloud-based solutions, meanwhile, offer virtually limitless scalability and don’t require investment in security personnel or expenses for DIY solutions and on-premise hardware.
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French Authorities and Avast Take Down One of the World’s Biggest Botnets
French authoritiesand antivirus solution provider Avast have jointly taken down the Retadupbotnet, considered as one of the world’s largest botnets affecting nearly a million computers worldwide.
Avast, in a blog post, announced that itscollaboration with French authorities resulted in the neutralization of the Retadup botnet, a group of computers infected with a malicious software (malware), in this case, a malware called “Retadup” and controlled by an attacker or attackers for malicious activities. As part of its threat intelligence research, Avast said it started closely monitoring the activity of the Retadup malware in March 2019.
Avast found that the computers infected with the Retadupmalware and that formed part of the Retadupbotnet were mostly abused to mine the cryptocurrency called “Monero”. In cryptocurrency mining, malicious actors earn cryptocurrency by stealing the computing power of someone else’s computer.
In few cases, Avast observed that Retadup was used in distributing the ransomware called “Stop”, a type of malware that’s purposely created to block legitimate users to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid. In other few cases, Avast also observed that Retadup was used in distributing Arkei, a malware that steals passwords.
Avast said its research showed that Retadup’s command-and-control (C&C) infrastructurewas mostly located in France and as such,it contacted theCybercrime Fighting Center (C3N) of theFrench National Gendarmerie.C&Cinfrastructurerefers to a server or servers used to communicate and remotely control computers compromised by a malware, in this case, the Retadupmalware.
As of late August, this year, Avastsaid that, in the collaboration with C3Nand with the permission from the office of the public prosecutor in France, Retadupmalware was taken down from 850,000compromised computers mostly located in Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.
Retadup malware first appeared in mid-2017 stealing information in Israeli hospitals. According to Trend Micro, the organization that first reported about this malware in June 2017, this malware is notable for its propagation and stealth capabilities.
Trend Micro said the original Retadup malware infects computers via an executable file that masquerades as another file type, such as shortcut files for browser, Windows updaters and a web 3D creation tool. For example, it’s delivered on the vulnerable computer as WinddowsUpdater.zip, mimicking the legitimate updater file which is WinddowsUpdater.exe.
A computer becomes infected with Retadup malware when the file that masquerades as another file type is clicked. According to Trend Micro, it’s unclear how these executable files containing the Retadup malware arrive on the computers of the victims.
Once inside an infected computer, this malware then checks for specific antivirus and analytics tools. The malware self-destructs when it detects the presence of specific antivirus and analytics tools.
In stealing information, Trend Micro said the original Retadup malware routinely records every keystroke made by a computer user, takes screenshots and extracts passwords from web browsers. The Retadup malware is also a worm, which means that this malware has the ability to spread itself within networks without user interaction.
In September 2017,Trend Microdetected a new version of Retadup malware, this time, infecting specific industries and governments in South America and controlling these infected computers as a botnet, stealing the computing power of these infected computers to mine the cryptocurrency Monero. As of September 2017, Trend Micro said the malicious actor or actors behind Retadup botnet earned 314 Monero coins, worth US$36,000 as a result of the illicit cryptocurrency mining.
Since the discovery of the Retadup malware in June 2017, this malware has evolved into different versions. Most of these versions, however, retain the original features, such as the worm capability and stealth capabilities. According to Avast, the most recent version of Retadup malware, avoids cryptocurrency mining on the infected computers when taskmgr.exe is running in order to make it harder for users to detect increased CPU usage.
With the permission from the office of the public prosecutor in France and with the technical assistance of Avast, the Cybercrime Fighting Center of the French National Gendarmeriedismantled the command and control server of the Retadup malware and replaced it with a disinfection server. This disinfection server, Avast said, made it possible for the self-destruction of the Retadup malware on the infected computers forming the Retadup botnet.
To date, while the Retadup botnet is neutralized as a result of the collaboration of the office of the public prosecutor in France, Avast, and the Cybercrime Fighting Center of the French National Gendarmerie, the creator or creators of Retadup, however, remain at large as no arrest or arrests have been made as a result of the operation.
Threat Mitigation & Prevention
Botnets are a threat to the online community. As shown by the Retadup botnet, it can wreak havoc via cryptocurrency mining, ransomware and stealing information. Other botnets, like the Mirai botnet, had in the past brought down the internet in certain parts of the world via distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.
Here are some cyber security measures in order to protect your organization’s computers or devices from being infected with malware and making them part of a botnet:
When you need help with threat mitigation, audits and prevention, connect with our cybersecurity experts.
How to Find Out If Your Organization’s Resources Are Illicitly Used for Crypto Mining
Ukraine’s National Nuclear Energy Generating Company, also known as Energoatom, a state enterprise operating all four nuclear power plants in Ukraine disclosed that a recent search carried out inside one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants revealed that a power plant employee had installed his own computer equipment inside the plant for cryptocurrency mining. This incident shows the danger of employees stealing their employers’ resources for cryptocurrency mining.
What Is Cryptocurrency Mining?
Cryptocurrency mining, also known as crypto mining, is the process of validating transactions and for these transactions to be added to the list of all transactions known as the blockchain. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can become a cryptocurrency miner.
Some cryptocurrencies can be mined using small and low processing power computers such as Raspberry Pi. Other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can only be mined using specialized computers with high computing power. In exchange for the computing power and electricity used for mining, miners get rewarded with cryptocurrency.
As cryptocurrency mining is power-hungry, especially the top cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, high electricity bill is one of the obstacles why many don’t venture into this field. To remedy this high electricity bill hurdle, malicious actors illicitly steal power from their employers and even from strangers. Aside from stealing electricity, malicious actors also steal from employers or strangers computing power of computers that can process a significant amount of data faster than ordinary computers.
The illicit stealing of electricity at one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plantsisn’t the first time that an employee has been caught stealing an employer’s resources for cryptocurrency mining. In February 2018, nuclear weapons engineers at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics were arrested for mining cryptocurrencies at the workplace.
Unlike the cryptocurrency mining at one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants which only stole the plant’s electricity as the accused installed his own computer equipment, the crypto mining incident at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics used not only the facility’s electricity but the office computer as well. Tatyana Zalesskaya, head of the research institute’s press service confirmed to Interfaxthat there had been an unauthorized attempt to the institute’s “computing power for personal purposes, including for the so-called mining”.
Employees aren’t the only one interested in your organization’s computer power for crypto mining, unknown external attackers are also after your organization’s computer power. Attackers steal computing power in the process called “cryptojacking”.
In cryptojacking, malicious actors, which could be either be insiders or outsiders, in order to earn cryptocurrency, install a crypto mining software into vulnerable systems, including websites, operating systems or public cloud accounts.
In February 2018, researchers at RedLockreported that Tesla was once a victim of cryptojacking. “The hackers had infiltrated Tesla’s Kubernetes console which was not password protected,” researchers at 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. In addition to the data exposure, hackers were performing crypto mining from within one of Tesla’s Kubernetes pods.”
In May this year, researchers at Guardicore Labsreported that over 50,000 servers belonging to companies in the healthcare, telecommunications, media and IT sectors were compromised for crypto mining.
Illicit crypto mining isn’t only a threat to large organizations or businesses. This type of attack also threatens small and medium-sized organizations. In late 2018, a school principal in China was fired after stealing the school’s electricity to mine cryptocurrency. The South China Morning Postreported that the fired school principal deployed inside the school 8 computers used for mining the cryptocurrency Ethereum for about a year, racking up an electricity bill of 14,700 yuan, equivalent to US$2,120.
Ways to Monitor Crypto Mining and Preventive Measures
Here are some security measures in order to monitor crypto mining activities within your organization’s premises and also ways to prevent this threat to occur in your organization:
An unusual increase of electric bill is a sign that computers operating within your organization’s premises are being used for cryptocurrency mining.
Somewhere lurking in your organization’s premises could be computers used for cryptocurrency mining and racking up your organization’s electricity bill.
If your organization’s computers are functioning a bit slower than usual, this could be a sign that your organization’s computers are being used for illicit cryptocurrency mining.
Malicious actors in recent months have learned how to be stealthy in their crytojacking activities, such as mining only cryptocurrencies that use less computer power and electricity to deflect suspicion. For instance, the crytojacking incident which compromised 50,000 servers reported by Guardicore Labs in May this year, mined a relatively new cryptocurrency called “Turtlecoin”, a cryptocurrency that can be mined even in small and low processing computers such as Raspberry Pi.
Monitoring network traffic is one of the ways in discovering this type of stealth crytojacking activities. Access to your organization's network from unknown locations and during non-working hours are telltale signs of a network compromise and possible illicit cryptocurrency mining.
Lastly, practice basic cyber hygiene such as keeping your organization’s operating systems up-to-date and using multi-factor authentication as gate-keepers to these computers and servers. In many cases, computers and servers are compromised for illicit cryptocurrency mining by the mere failure of applying the latest security update and the used of weak login details and lack of multi-factor authentication.
When you need help, contact our teamof experts to mitigate the cybersecurity risks for your organization.
Threat Actors Continue to Target Websites
The European Central Bank (ECB) shut down one of its websites following the discovery that malicious actors accessed the site without authority and infected it with malicious software (malware). This incident shows that threat actors continue to target websites.
ECB, in a statement, said that unauthorized parties had breached the Bank’s Integrated Reporting Dictionary (BIRD) website, a site purposely built to provide the banking industry with details on how to produce statistical and supervisory reports. The Bank said that contact data, including email addresses, names and position titles of 481 subscribers to the BIRD newsletter may have been stolen by the attackers.
ECB, in a statement, said that the attack on BIRD website was discovered as a result of a “regular maintenance work”. An ECB spokesman told Reutersthat the earliest evidence found of the website attack dated back to December 2018, which means that the attack had gone unnoticed for months before being discovered during maintenance work.
This isn’t the first time that ECB reported an attack on its IT infrastructure. In 2014, ECBdisclosed that an unknown attacker or attackers had breached another of the Bank’s website used for registrations for events of the Bank such as conferences and visits.
The 2014 website attack, the Bank said, led to the theft of email addresses and other contact data left by individuals registering for events at the ECB. This 2014 attack in one of the Bank’s website was only known after an anonymous email was sent to the Bank asking for financial compensation in exchange for the data stolen.
In the latest attack on one of its websites, ECB said the attackers “succeeded in injecting malware onto the external server to aid phishing activities”. In the 2014 attack, ECB said the malicious actor or actors attacked a “database serving its public website”. Beyond those phrases, not much is known in the “injection” and “database” attacks.
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP)lists injection attacks as the number one threat to web security. Injection attacks refer to a broad attack paths that allow attackers to gain access to the database records of vulnerable websites. In certain cases, this type of attack allows attackers to gain administrative rights to a database.
One example of an injection attack is the SQL injection, also known as SQLI, attack. SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language, is a programming language understood by databases. By inserting malicious commands from this programming language into input fields on websites such as input forms, attackers can gain access to the database records of vulnerable websites, resulting in the unauthorized access of any data available in the database.
In late 2007 and early 2008, thousands of websites were defaced as a result of SQL injection attacks. According to researchers at Microsoft, These particular SQL injection attacks didn’t exploit vulnerabilities in Windows, IIS, SQL Server, or other infrastructure code; rather, it exploited vulnerabilities in custom web applications running on this infrastructure. Thousands of websites were affected due to 2 factors: first, there was an automated tool to launch this attack, and second, this SQL attack tool spread through the use of a botnet.
SANSreported that thousands of websites were compromised in late 2007 and early 2008 as the attacker or attackers used an automated tool in search engines to find vulnerable web applications and exploiting them. “The exploit just consisted of an SQL statement that tried to inject a script tag into every HTML page on the web site,” SANS reported. SecureWorks, meanwhile, reported that the automated SQL attack tool, spread to thousands of websites as the attackers relied on a botnet – a group of computers or devices infected by the same malware and controlled by an attacker for malicious purposes such as in this case the spread of SQL attack tool.
Other than using SQL injection to attack indiscriminate websites using an automated tool and a botnet, SQL injection has also been used by attackers in targeted attacks. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a malicious group obtained confidential information from Sony Pictures’ computer systems on May 27, 2011 to June 2, 2011 using an SQL injection attack against Sony Pictures’ website.
According to the UK's Information Commissioner's Office, SQL injection was also used in the TalkTalk cyber attack on the company’s website. As a result of the SQL injection attack on TalkTalk’s website, personal details of 156,959 customers, including their names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers and email addresses were stolen. The attacker also stole the bank account number and sort code of 15,656 TalkTalk’s customers.
As shown in above-mentioned examples, injection attacks on websites are highly detrimental to the affected organizations. Loss of customer trust is one potential cost of an SQL injection attack should personally identifiable information such as full names, addresses and credit card details be stolen.
One of the cyber security measures, in order to prevent injection attacks such as SQL injection attacks, is through the use of a web application firewall (WAF). A WAF is often used to filter out injection attacks such as SQL injection attacks. In filtering out SQL injection attacks, a WAF uses a list that contains signatures to address specific attack vectors. This WAF is regularly updated to provide new filtering rules for newly discovered security vulnerabilities.
At The Driz Group, we specialize in protecting your websites and web applications with instant attack mitigation and a guaranteed DDoS protection. We support all deployment types including Cloud and on-premise. Setup take several minutes and there is nothing to buy, support, or maintain.
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What Are the Biggest Mobile Cybersecurity Threats Every Business Must Know?
How many times a day do you Google something on your smartphone?
It’s second nature now. Any questions you have, any movie stars you want to look up, any local restaurants you want to check out — just grab your phone and ask.
And with more than half of worldwide internet traffic originating from phones, the popularity of mobile search shows no sign of slowing down. Particularly for businesses.
The ease, speed and convenience of mobile internet means employees can access work documents, data and software at any time. But accessing business accounts and data via your mobile device opens you up to cybersecurity threats, just like browsing on a computer.
So, what are the biggest mobile cybersecurity threats every business must know?
Malware Lurking in Websites and Apps
It’s easy to assume malware is a risk to employees going online via their desktop or laptop computers, not mobile devices.
But that’s just not the case. Malware can infect a smartphone just as it would bigger hardware and cause serious problems.
Mobile malware typically attacks smartphones through web pages, attachments or apps primed to unleash infections. Clicking a link in an email, downloading a program or installing an app could put your business’s data in danger within seconds.
It’s a simple mistake to make, especially for non-tech-savvy employees.
Infected apps may access your smartphone’s data storage, memory, internal processes and other apps. It may even run in the background without being noticed by the user, gathering information and sharing it with whoever created it.
Hands-on Device Theft
One of the most obvious and damaging cybersecurity risks is theft.
And we mean physical theft: having a phone or tablet stolen by a mugger or opportunistic criminal.
It’s not hard to imagine how this might happen. An employee is out enjoying the sunshine on their lunch break, maybe sitting in the park or outside a cafe. They put their phone down for a moment to grab a drink or open their bag.
When they look back up, the phone is gone.
This takes just seconds but can have devastating results. A hacker would be able to bypass a pin or password and get into the owner’s accounts with ease. They could access your business’s emails, banking and communications in next to no time.
Scary, isn’t it? That’s why it’s so vital that all employees take good care of their company and personal phones. Any device with data relating to the business should be secured with a pin or password, as well as the additional security measures (such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanning).
Encourage all staff to stay vigilant and be aware. If their phone is stolen, they have to admit it fast: the sooner they raise the alarm, the sooner action can be taken to protect data in the cloud.
Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks
Free, public Wi-Fi is great. Employees can take their phone or tablet to the local coffee shop and do a little work outside the office for a change of scenery. The Wi-Fi is thrown in free when you buy a drink or snack so there’s no reason to lose momentum.
But free Wi-Fi networks tend to be unsecured. And that makes anyone using them vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. Any social media interactions, emails,writing, calls and more may be available to hackers.
This is why employees must be careful when accessing Wi-Fi networks beyond their own or your business’s. If they need to wait until they’re back in the office to finish a task or make a call, a slight delay is far better than the alternative.
And this leads us nicely on to …
The Threat of Network Spoofing
Free, public Wi-Fi networks may pose a threat, but network spoofing is much more dangerous.
This involves hackers creating fake access points designed to look like legitimate Wi-Fi connections. You might see them appear on a list of Wi-Fi networks when you visit a coffee shop, bar, airport etc.
Cybercriminals give their fake networks believable names (‘Coffee Place’, ‘Airport Open Wi-Fit’ etc.) to entice oblivious users. They might ask you to set-up an account before giving you access or just let you dive right in.
One big hazard is that employees might use their standard username and password to create accounts with fake networks. And that means cybercriminals would be able to get into emails, banking accounts and anything else protected by the same details.
The entire business’s and clients’ data could be in danger because of a simple mistake.
Taking Action to Minimize Your Business’s Vulnerability
Every company wants to be safe against cybersecurity risks. Every company wants to trust its employees to handle accounts and data in a responsible way.
But it’s not so simple.
Cybercriminals use ever-more-sophisticated techniques and tools to target businesses. Employees need to be made aware of the threats they face when they’re online across all devices.
Effective training is key to help your workforce exercise caution and stay vigilant whenever they’re working or communicating on their smartphone or tablet. And make sure any company phones you hand out have been checked and utilize strict security safeguards to keep them protected.
Don’t try to handle all of your cybersecurity in-house either, especially if your business is brand new and you have little to no experience with managing data. Clients expect you to keep their information confidential and safe against leaks — if you don’t, your reputation could take a serious hit.
Work with cybersecurity specialists to assess your vulnerability and take action to defend your data. The Driz Group’s experts are here to:
Want to learn more about our managed services and how they help companies just like yours every single day? Just get in touch with our dedicated teamright now!
Decade-Old Vulnerability Found in Avaya VoIP Phones
Researchers at McAfee Advanced Threat Research have discovered a decade-old security vulnerability lurking in the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones of Avaya, the world’s second largest VOIP phone provider.
The decade-old vulnerability present in Avaya VOIP phones, specifically 9600 Series, J100 Series and B189 Series using the H.323 firmware, according to researchers at McAfee Advanced Threat Researchallows remote code execution (RCE) – enabling an attacker to access someone else's device and make changes to it, regardless of where this device is geographically located.
The RCE vulnerability in a piece of open-source software that Avaya used, the researchers said, was likely copied and modified 10 years ago and the company failed to apply subsequent security patches. The researchers added that a malicious actor exploiting the said vulnerability could take over the normal operation of the phone, copy audio from speakerphone and “bug” the phone.
The piece of open-source software that Avaya copied bore the 2004-2007 copyright, which according to the researchers is a “big red flag” as this piece of software has an exploit that has been publicly available since 2009. The 2009 exploit demonstrated that devices using DHCP client version 4.1 and below allows remote DHCP servers to execute arbitrary code. A DHCP client, also known as dhclient, is a device that needs an IP address; while DHCP server hands out an IP address to the dhclient.
Researchers at McAfee Advanced Threat Research found that Avaya VOIP phone’s version of dhclient is vulnerable to the exploit reported in 2009. The researchers said that malicious actors could build a “weaponized version” of the exploit and threaten private networks.
The researchers reported their discovery to Avaya. In June this year, Avayaissued a patch for the affected VOIP phones.
VOIP Phones as Path to Intrusion
Early this month, researchers at Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center reported that VoIP phone is one of the devices being used by a known cyber adversary to gain initial access to corporate networks. Aside from VoIP phone, the researchers said, popular office IoT devices printer and video decoder, are also being used by this known cyber adversary in gaining an initial foothold into corporate networks.
Researchers at Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, however, didn’t specify the brands of VOIP phone, office printer and video decoder. These office devices, according to the researchers, were compromised either as these devices were deployed without changing the default manufacturer’s login details or the latest security update hadn’t been applied.
According to Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center researchers, the known cyber adversary used these 3 popular office IoT devices as points of ingress in gaining initial foothold to a corporate network. Once inside a corporate network via these compromised IoT devices, the attacker was seen conducting a simple network scan to look for other vulnerable devices.
As the attacker moved from one vulnerable device to another, a simple shell script was dropped to establish persistence on the network. This simple shell script allowed the attacker to search for higher-privileged accounts that would grant access to higher-value data, the researchers at Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center found.
Aside from using popular office IoT devices as points of ingress in accessing high-value data, these compromised devices are also used to build a botnet – referring to a group of devices infected with a malicious software (malware) and controlled by an attacker or attackers for malicious activities, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. In a DDoS attack, a botnet or group of infected devices is controlled to direct their traffic to a target, overwhelming this target with too much traffic that the target can’t handle, ultimately bringing the target offline and rendering the target inaccessible to its legitimate customers.
VPNFilter is an example of a botnet. At its peak, VPNFilter infected at least 500,000 networking devices in at least 54 countries. The following are devices affected by VPNFilter: Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR and TP-Link networking equipment in the small and home office (SOHO) space, as well at QNAP network-attached storage (NAS) devices.
According to researchers at Cisco, VPNFilter has a self-destruct capability that can be triggered en masse via the botnet structure and has the potential of cutting off internet access for hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. The researchers are unsure why so many devices were infected with VPNFilter. Most of the infected devices, however, have known public exploits or default manufacturer’s login details hadn’t been changed.
In May 2018, the potential negative effect of VPNFilter was mitigated when the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)seized a domain used as command and control (C2) by the threat group in their botnet campaign. In a botnet operation, C2 (could be a website or a public cloud account) is used to communicate or control the infected devices.
The devastating effect of a botnet was shown to the world when the Mirai botnet attacked in 2016 Dyn, a major dynamic DNS provider, resulting in the widespread internet outages across the U.S. and Europe. The earlier versions of the Mirai, including the one that attacked Dyn, infected hundreds of thousands of wireless cameras and routers and turned them as botnets. Since the publication of the source code of the Mirai in 2016, a number of Mirai versions has been observed in the wild.
Researchers at Palo Alto Networks discovered a different version of the Mirai which targeted WePresent WiPG-1000 Wireless Presentation systems and LG Supersign TVs – IoT devices that are often used by businesses. Many of the Mirai variants infect IoT devices by exploiting the practice of users of not changing the default manufacturer’s login details.
Today’s IoT devices outnumber the combined number of personal computers and mobile phones. Hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of these IoT devices are, however, left without basic management.
Changing the default manufacturer’s login details and applying the latest security update are two cyber security best practices in preventing malicious actors from accessing your organization’s network. These practices also stop your organization’s IoT devices from being used as part a botnet for malicious activities such as DDoS attacks.
Capital One Data Breach Aftermath: 3 Cyber Threats that Every Organization Should be Mindful
The data breach at Capital One Financial Corporation, the data breach that affected approximately 100 million individuals in the U.S. and approximately 6 million in Canada, throws light into 3 cyber threats that every organization using the public cloud should be mindful: account takeover attack, attack on misconfigured web application firewall (WAF) and Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) attack.
Large enterprises like Capital One build their own web applications on top of Amazon’s cloud services to answer to their specific needs. Amazon told the New York Timesit had found no evidence of compromise on its underlying cloud services. The company added that its customers fully control the web applications that they built.
Last July 29th, the U.S. Department of Justicearrested a Seattle resident for the intrusion on the stored data of Capital One. The arrest of the Seattle resident came as an offshoot of an email sent to the official email for responsible disclosure of Capital One. The tipster wrote that someone’s GitHub account was exposing data which appeared to belong to Capital One.
In the indictment document, Joel Martini, Special Agent at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stated that the exposed data was verified to belong to Capital One and the GitHub account was traced to belong to the accused Seattle resident, who goes with the handle “erratic” in her Twitter and Slack accounts. A review of June 26, 2019 Slack postings, FBI Special Agent Martini said, showed that Erratic claimed to be in possession of files belonging to several companies, government entities and educational institutions, and one of these files was associated with Capital One.
Capital One, in a statement, said that it had fixed the “configuration vulnerability” that was exploited in the data breach. Publicly-available data and new information, however, show that more than one cyber threats were exploited in the Capital One data breach.
1. Account Takeover
Account takeover refers to the access of someone else’s online account for malicious purposes. In the indictment, FBI Special Agent Martini stated that the file that was publicly exposed by Erratic in her GitHub account contained a list of more than 700 folders and code for three commands.
The first command, when executed, provides login details to an account that enabled access to certain storage space of Capital One at Amazon cloud service. The said account, which had the necessary permissions, was used to extract or copy Capital One’s data. The indictment didn’t mention how the accused got hold of the login details of the account used to access Capital One’s data.
2. Misconfigured Web Application Firewall (WAF)
Web application firewall (WAF) filters, monitors and blocks traffic between a web application and the internet. A properly configured WAF blacklists and/or whitelists traffic to and from a web application.
A WAF that operates based on a blacklist, also known as negative security model, blocks traffic that doesn’t meet the predetermined qualifications. A WAF that operates on a whitelist, also known as positive security model, grants entry only to traffic that has been pre-approved. Many of today’s WAF implements both negative security model and positive security model. A typical WAF also protects web applications from attacks such as SQL injection and other common attacks against web applications.
In the indictment document, FBI Special Agent Martini stated that the data breach at Capital One was a result of a misconfigured WAF. Capital One’s logs show a number of connections or attempted connections from IP addresses beginning with 46.246. Specifically, on or about March 12, 2019, Capital One’s logs show IP address beginning in 46.246 attempted to access Capital One’s cloud data. Publicly-available records show that this IP address is controlled by a company that provides VPN services.
Capital One’s logs also show IP addresses believed to be TOR exit nodes accessed Capital One’s cloud data on or about March 22, 2019. A properly configured WAF could have blacklisted IP addresses such as those belonging to the known VPN company. Conversely, a properly configured WAF could have whitelisted only IP address or addresses used by authorized personnel of Capital One. Malicious actors, however, are continually finding creative means in breaking into web applications that are shielded by properly configured WAFs.
3. Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF) Vulnerability
New information has recently been made public about the Capital One data breach. Based on new data, including information from one who is privy to details about the ongoing Capital One breach investigation, during the attack period, Capital One used ModSecurity, an open-source WAF that’s deployed along with the open-source Apache Web server.
The new report said that the Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF) vulnerability was exploited in the Capital One data breach. While ModSecurity protects web applications against many common attack categories, it doesn't protect against SSRF.
MITREdescribes SSRF in this manner: “The web server receives a URL or similar request from an upstream component and retrieves the contents of this URL, but it does not sufficiently ensure that the request is being sent to the expected destination. By providing URLs to unexpected hosts or ports, attackers can make it appear that the server is sending the request, possibly bypassing access controls such as firewalls that prevent the attackers from accessing the URLs directly.”
In the case of the Capital One data breach, one can’t say which of the attack methods – account takeover attack, attack on misconfigured WAF or Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) attack – played the biggest role in the data breach. These 3 types of threats have their own specific preventive and mitigating measures that every organization using the public cloud should be mindful.
When you need to safeguard your cloud applications, our web application security expert will design the right sized solution and will mitigate common risks within minutes. Contact ustoday and avoid a major breach.
How to Prevent Account Takeover Attacks
Account takeover attacks – accessing someone else’s online account for malicious purposes – continue to be one of the fastest-growing security threats faced by organizations today.
Account takeover happens as a result of inadvertently exposing account login details or through malicious account takeover via botnets. The account takeover of an account owned by SSL certificate issuer Comodo is an example of account takeover as a result of inadvertently exposing account login details.
Netherlands-based security researcher Jelle Ursem told TechCrunchthat Comodo’s email address and password were inadvertently left exposed in a public GitHub repository owned by a Comodo software developer. This enabled Ursem to login to Comodo’s Microsoft-hosted cloud services containing sensitive information of the company. The said account wasn’t protected with two-factor authentication. Ursem said he contacted Comodo about the exposed account.
When contacted by TechCrunch, Comodo said, “The data accessed was not manipulated in any way and within hours of being notified by the researcher, the account was locked down.” Ursem, however, told TechCrunch, “This account has already been hacked by somebody else, who has been sending out spam.”
Account Takeover Botnets
While many malicious actors are opportunistic, that is, while many abused inadvertently exposed account login details, many just don’t wait for these opportunities to come. Many of today’s malicious actors are aggressively taking over accounts through botnets.
In the Sixth Annual Fraud Attack Index, Forter found that there had been a 45% increase in account takeover attacks by the end of 2018 compared to the beginning of 2017. One of the means by which malicious actors perpetuated account takeover attacks is thorough bots, Forter found.
“Fraudsters often try to hide their activities behind these devices [bots], flying under the radar of detection for most legacy fraud prevention systems, which are simply not equipped with sophisticated enough technology to pick up on the nuances of these behavioural indicators and the personas hiding behind them,” Forter said.
Botnet, also known as bot, refers to a group of computers infected with malicious software (malware) that allows an attacker to control this group of infected computers as one army for malicious activities. Many of these botnets have been used by attackers as an army for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and illicit cryptocurrency mining. Malicious actors are increasingly using these botnets for account takeover attacks.
An account takeover botnet works by installing a credential cracking malware on compromised computers. These infected computers are then controlled by an attacker or attackers to login into an account of banking site, social network or email. Once the correct username and password combination is cracked, the account taken over is then used by attackers to steal money (in case of a banking site), steal confidential information such as credit card information, or purchase goods and services.
Between April 7th to April 22nd this year, Impervaobserved the account takeover attacks carried out by a botnet, composed of an enslaved army of 2,500 infected computers – with a corresponding 2,500 IPs overall – that attacked more than 300 sites while active. Each day during the attack period, 800 IPs were actively attacking 30 sites with 150,000 login attempts, Imperva found.
From the victim site perspective, each site was attacked for 7 hours by 500 IPs sending 7,000 login attempts with 7,000 different login details (usernames and passwords); and from a single site perspective, each botnet-controlled IP was responsible for approximately 14 login attempts during the attack time, or approximately 2 login attempts per hour, Imperva found.
The above-mentioned method of attack is called a “low and slow” attack – whereby the botnet enslaves a lot of computers, each sending only a small number of requests, to cover-up the attack as legitimate traffic. Distributing the account takeover attacks across many infected computers or IP addresses makes these attacks go without being detected.
The usernames and passwords used in the login attempts for account takeover attacks often come from credential cracking and credential stuffing. In credential cracking, every word in the dictionary is tried to crack the correct username and password combination. In credential stuffing, the attackers exploit users’ tendency to reuse passwords across multiple sites.
Credential stuffing was cited by StubHubas the reason why a “small number” of users’ accounts had been illegally taken over by fraudsters. In the StubHub case, attackers illegally took over 1,000 StubHub users’ accounts and used these compromised accounts to buy thousands of high-value tickets, including tickets to Justin Timberlake and Elton John concerts, Yankees baseball games, U.S. Open tennis matches and Broadway shows. The account takeover attackers then resold these tickets for a profit of more than a million dollars.
Traditional security solutions have proven to be ineffective in “low and slow” account takeover attacks using botnets. By using account takeover botnets, malicious actors spread the attack via thousands of compromised computers or IPs, making them go undetected for a long period of time.
Choosing a strong username and password combination via eliminating the use of dictionary words, using a unique username and password combination for every account and the use of multi-factor authentication are some of the best cyber security practices in preventing account takeover attacks.
Malicious actors, however, are always finding creative ways to crack those unique and strong usernames and passwords and even multi-factor authentication. An automated security solution that monitors abnormal access to these accounts is one of the mitigating measures against account takeover attacks.
When you need help minimizing cybersecurity risks, our team of experts will answer the questions you have and will help you protect your data. Contact ustoday.
The Importance of Facing Up to Cybersecurity Risks
A cybersecurity emergency has been declared across Louisiana, USA, after three public school districts were struck by a malware attack.
The cybersecurity danger hit Sabine, Morehouse and Ouachita, in North Louisiana, causing widespread concern. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness put its crisis action team into motion quickly to handle the attack.
Sabine School District issued a statement, addressing the nature of the cybersecurity breach and their actions to fix it:
“The Sabine Parish School System was hit with an electronic virus [...[ this virus has disabled some of our technology systems and our central office phone system.”
According to the principal of Sabine Parish’s Florien High School, a ransomware virus had infiltrated their system and caused disruptions. The alarm was raised when the school’s technology supervisor noticed ‘unusually high bandwidth usage’.
Fortunately, Jones believes no sensitive information has been exposed during the attack, though everything stored on the School District’s servers was lost. This amounts to documents from across 17 years of Jones’s hard work, including schedules, speeches and more.
Taking Action, Addressing Issues Fast
While this is certainly a challenging situation for the three school districts, it appears the end result is nowhere near as terrible as it could have been. It’s clear everyone involved took decisive action when the suspicious activity was noticed, and the proper authorities were informed.
Plans for future protection and security measures are, apparently, being devised by state officials (in coordination with the FBI). But this case indicates just how important it is to face up to cybersecurity risks and take proper action to minimize the threat to systems.
Simply hoping hackers will miss or choose to ignore your business, organization, school etc. is simply not enough. Implementing effective defenses is the best way to safeguard your critical data, client information and financial details.
If any of these, and other types of vital data, become exposed by nefarious individuals, the clean-up could be a long, time-consuming, difficult process. The worst thing you can do in the event of a breach is sweep it under the carpet and try to contain any damage without raising the alarm.
Those involved in the Louisiana case alerted the proper parties and are dealing with the situation as best they can.
Yes, acknowledging that a cybersecurity attack took place does have the potential to affect your reputation and the trust people place in you. Yet it’s far better to be transparent and admit your cybersecurity measures may not have been quite as efficient as they should be than to lie.
The Problem of Ransomware and Preparing Your Team
Ransomware is, as our regular readers may know, a common choice of cyberattack for hackers. The Louisiana case is just one example of many.
The first ransomware was distributed by a biologist (Dr. Joseph Popp) in 1991: he sent floppy disks containing PC Cyborg Trojanto researchers, in an attempt to extort money.
Ransomware has come a long way since then, but while it has evolved in various ways, the aim remains the same.
Other notorious ransomware attacks include WannaCry, which was detected more than 250,000 times across 116 countries in 2017. This was designed to take advantage of a simple software defect, encrypting hard drive files to make them inaccessible — with the attackers only unlocking them after a bitcoin payment had been made.
The issue is, of course, that agreeing to pay a ransom doesn’t actually guarantee the people responsible will stick to their end of the deal. After all, why should they? If they’re willing to disrupt your daily processes, cost you money, damage your reputation and more, there’s no reason to believe they will do as they promise.
Prevention is, as the saying goes, better than cure. And that means taking steps to prepare your team for potential cybersecurity threats in their day-to-day work.
How can you do this?
Taking Steps to Protect Your System
Implementing security measures and processes to protect your system against breaches can be daunting, especially if you have no experience or real knowledge of this area.
It’s essential that you embrace the most cutting-edge cybersecurity software available and consult with experts. Professionals specializing in security measures and reinforcing systems will be able to identify the biggest dangers you face, how to defend against them and advise your team to be more vigilant.
In terms of training your staff, there are certain things you can try.
Raise cybersecurity issues and trends in regular meetings
Keep your employees updated on the latest cybersecurity hazards and techniques: make sure they understand what suspicious activities they should be aware of when responding to emails, downloading software or visiting websites.
Try to cultivate a more vigilant workforce and boost recognition of effective ‘safety first’ procedures. Get them into the habit of questioning links, emails and other potentially-infected elements when they’re not sure how safe they are.
Find time in a day to run a test exercise for your team. Act as if a cybersecurity attack has struck your system and have staff go through the motions of responding appropriately.
Do they know what to do if they spot the warning signs of an impending threat? Can they work as a cohesive team even when they’re not completely sure what’s happening? Work to make the answer to both a firm ‘yes’.
Everyone should know what role they have in the event of a cybersecurity breach. Perhaps they’re required to do nothing but sit tight and wait for business to resume as normal. Maybe they have to take an active part in informing clients of the situation or coordinating with security experts.
Having a formal plan means everyone involved can leap into action in the event of a crisis, saving valuable time and minimizing further disruption.
Knowing how to handle cybersecurity risks and attacks is fundamental for any business, organization or institution today. If you want to know more about protecting your system and taking effective action,contact our specialistsnow!
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP