Tag Archives: phishing

Can You Spot the Bait in a Phishing Attack?

Hackers are always trying to find creative and new ways to steal data and information from businesses. While spam (unwanted messages in your email inbox) has been around for a very long time, phishing emails have risen in popularity because they are more effective at achieving the desired endgame. How can you make sure that phishing scams don’t harm your business in the future?

Phishing attacks come in many different forms. We’ll discuss some of the most popular ways that hackers and scammers will try to take advantage of your business through phishing scams, including phone calls, email, and social media.

Phishing Calls
Do you receive calls from strange or restricted numbers? If so, chances are that they are calls that you want to avoid. Hackers will use the phone to make phishing phone calls to unsuspecting employees. They might claim to be with IT support, and in some cases, they might even take on the identity of someone else within your office. These types of attacks can be dangerous and tricky to work around, particularly if the scammer is pretending to be someone of authority within your organization.

For example, someone might call your organization asking about a printer model or other information about your technology. Sometimes they will be looking for specific data or information that might be in the system, while other times they are simply looking for a way into your network. Either way, it’s important that your company doesn’t give in to their requests, as there is no reason why anyone would ask for sensitive information over the phone. If in doubt, you should cross-check contact information to make sure that the caller is who they say they are.

Phishing Emails
Phishing emails aren’t quite as pressing as phishing phone calls because you’re not being pressured to make an immediate decision. Still, this doesn’t lessen the importance of being able to identify phishing messages. You might receive tailor-made customized phishing messages with the sole intent of a specific user handing over important information or clicking on a link/attachment. Either way, the end result is much the same as a phone call phishing scam;

To avoid phishing emails, you should implement a spam filter and train your employees on how to identify the telltale signs of these messages. These include spelling errors, incorrect information, and anything that just doesn’t belong. Although, phishing messages have started to become more elaborate and sophisticated.

Phishing Accounts
Social media makes it incredibly easy for hackers to assume an anonymous identity and use it to attack you; or, even more terrifying, the identity of someone you know. It’s easy for a hacker to masquerade as someone that they’re not, providing an outlet for attack that can be somewhat challenging to identify. Some key pointers are to avoid any messages that come out of the blue or seemingly randomly. You can also ask questions about past interactions that tip you off that they may (or may not) be who they say they are.

Ultimately, it all comes down to approaching any phishing incident intelligently and with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Japanese travel agency suffers massive data breach

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If you’ve taken a trip to Japan through a travel agency, you might be in a bit of trouble. JTB Corp., a major Japanese travel agency, has suffered a data breach in which the personal information on nearly 8 million people was compromised.

BatBlue reports that the leak began with an email phishing attack, where an employee of the subsidiary company i.JTB Corp. opened an email attachment that infected his or her computer. From there, the hacker could access the main server, and obtained access to the personal data of JTB Corp. customers. The data may also include information on customers who used the booking services by NTT Docomo Inc.

Among the stolen data, Nikkei reports, are the names, addresses, email addresses, and passport numbers of approximately 7.93 million people. JTB states that around 4,300 of those passport numbers are still valid, which means the hacker or anyone who purchases the stolen information can misuse them.

If your passport number was among those stolen, report it and get a replacement immediately. Identity Theft Awareness provides instructions on reporting stolen passports and requesting new ones, and advises acting as soon as possible.

JTB President Hiroyuki Takahashi has apologized for the breach, and has notified law enforcement. The investigation is ongoing, but there are currently no instances of the data being abused.

Ransomware is Growing as Cyber Crime Pays Off

Ransomware
Ransomware is growing and transforming and cyber criminals are taking it to the bank!

Ransomware is growing into a huge business for cyber-criminals. This is business venture has a very low cost to maintain so criminals jump in and out of the business very easily.

An analysis of phishing email campaigns from the first three months of 2016 has seen a 6.3 million increase, due primarily to a ransomware upsurge against the last quarter of 2015. That is a staggering 789% jump.

Published on PhishMe’s Q1 2016 Malware Review identified ransomware is growing by three key trends previously recorded throughout 2015, but have come to full fruition in the last few months:

  1. Encryption Ransomware
  2. Soft Targeting by Functional Area
  3. Downloader/Ransomware: the one-two combination

“Thus far in 2016, we have recorded an unprecedented rise in encryption ransomware attacks, and we see no signs of this trend abating. Individuals, small- and medium-sized businesses, hospitals, and global enterprises are all faced with the reality that this is now one of the most favored cyber-criminal enterprises,” explains Rohyt Belani, CEO and Co-Founder of PhishMe.

Rohyt continues, “Another 2015 trend that emerged into fuller fruition during the first quarter of 2016 is threat actors’ use of soft targeting in phishing. In contrast to both broad distribution and the careful targeting of one or two individuals via spear phishing emails, soft targeting focuses on a category of individuals based on their role within any organization anywhere in the world. Criminals target this subset with content relevant to their role. Such malicious emails are typically accompanied with Microsoft Office documents laden with malware or the ability to download the same.” During the first quarter, JavaScript applications even surpassed Office documents with macro scripts to become the most common malicious file type accompanying phishing emails.

Whichever way the cyber-criminals succeed to infiltrate the organization, the impact on the victimized organization is significant because it needs to use up scarce incident response resources for cleaning up, managing a potential public relations nightmare, and in some cases even caving in to hacker demands of paying the ransom being demanded.

The latest Infoblox DNS Threat Index for Q1 2016 reports a 3,500 percent increase in ransomware domain creation quarter on quarter from 2015. “The relative cost of infrastructure is so low that it completely makes sense from the criminal’s point of view,” Rod Rasmussen, vice president of cyber security at Infoblox.

Another factor behind the fact that ransomware is growing is that people are paying the ransoms.  Don’t mistake this as an honorable act though. According to SecureWorks senior security researcher Keith Jarvis, more than four dozen distinct families of ransomware have emerged since the start of 2015 and “generally, 0.25% to 3.0% of victims elect to pay a ransom,” Jarvis explains, “meaning attackers need to destroy data on anywhere from 30 to 400 computers for every victim who relents and pays the ransom.”

Estimating the ransomware industry, we find that the largest operations are pulling in several million dollars per year. Which is hardly surprising when you consider that 93% of phishing emails delivered last quarter contained ransomware.”

It’s an attractive threat sector for many reasons. Number one, persistent attacks can be avoided. “Ransomware that encrypts all the data and destroys local backups before asking for a lump sum payout,” Dave Venable, VP of cyber security at Masergy told SC, “lets hackers avoid the higher costs and labor of maintaining the infrastructure of persistent attacks.”

Ransomware is popular because the malware can be monetized anonymously and quickly. “Through the use of bitcoin payment systems,” explains Gunter Ollmann, CSO at Vectra Networks, “the criminal can force the victim to pay the ransom in a monetary unit that facilitates complete anonymity and can be trivially converted to cash.” Gone are the days of requiring different and specialist criminal hands to both launder the data and anonymously monetize it.

As Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of High-Tech Bridge, concludes, “Ransomware is not a technical problem, but a business model problem: while it will remain the easiest way to extort money, it will continue skyrocketing.”

93% of phishing emails are now ransomware

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As of the end of March, 93 percent of all phishing emails contained encryption ransomware, according to a report released today.

As of the end of March, 93 percent of all phishing emails contained encryption ransomware, according to a report released today by PhishMe.

That was up from 56 percent in December, and less than 10 percent every other month of last year.

And the number of phishing emails hit 6.3 million in the first quarter of this year, a 789 percent increase over the last quarter of 2015

The anti-phishing vendor also counted the number of different variants of phishing emails that it saw. Ransomware accounted for 51 percent of all variants in March, up from just 29 percent in February and 15 percent in January.

The skyrocketing growth is due to that fact that ransomware is getting easier and easier to send and that it offers a quick and easy return on investment.

Other types of cyberattacks typically take more work to monetize. Stolen credit card numbers have to be sold and used before the cards are canceled, for example. Identity theft takes even more of a time commitment.

With ransomware, however, victims tend to pay quickly. Instead of hunting through company networks for valuable data, exfiltrating it, processing it, and monetizing it, ransomware criminals can just sit back and watch the money flow in.

“If you look at the price point of paying the ransom, it is rarely more than 1 or 2 Bitcoin, that’s $400 to $800, maybe $1,000 depending on the exchange rate,” said Brendan Griffin, Threat Intelligence Manager at PhishMe. “That’s a relatively low price point for a small to medium business.”

The amount is low enough that it’s often easier to victims to pay up rather than struggle to recover the data by other means.

And the new, easy-to-use ransomware tools and services are not just attracting criminals who would previously run other kinds of scams, but also bringing new players into the business, he said.

Locky and TeslaCrypt, two common varieties of ransomware have seen significant growth, but not all types of ransomware fared as well. CryptoWall, for example, seems to have fallen out of favor, PhishMe reported. In October and November of last year, CryptoWall accounted for 90 percent of encryption ransomware samples. In March, nearly 75 percent of all samples were Locky.

Soft targeting

In addition to the spike in the number of ransomware emails, one variant that’s seeing increasing popularity is the “soft targeted” phishing message.

It’s somewhere between a business compromise email or spearphishing attack, which is targeted at one specific executive, and the general-purpose spam email that goes out to everybody.

The soft targeted phishing email targets people in a particular job category, but may include some customization, such as the name of the recipient in the salutation.

“This has been a creeping trend for a while now,” said Griffin.

For example, a popular type of phishing email is the resume email, which supposedly has a resume from a job applicant in the attachment.

Recipients who don’t work in human resources or other jobs where they hire people would either ignore it, or forward it on to the appropriate person at the company. Other job functions can be targeted as well.

“For example, our vice president of finance received a message that said it was an important message for the vice president of finance, and had his name in the first line,” said Griffin.

Other common types of soft targeted phishing emails are billing, shipping and invoice-related messages.

According to Griffin, soft targeting increases the likelihood that someone will fall for a phishing email.

If you don’t know the person sending you the email take extra precaution.

 

Email Scams and Awareness

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Emails are the fastest means of communication! This is what we studied in our childhood. And how true! It indeed is. Today, no one can imagine living without an email ID. No work can be completed without the use of emails. Whether it be a job application, or inviting your friends to a party.

This culture of emails has opened up a lot of loopholes which can be exploited by the online scammers to gain monetary or other profits. Scammers these days have been employing new tools and methods to ruin common netizens’ experience of the web. Thus, in this article, we shall be enlisting some common email scams to make you aware of them and the methods to stay protected.

1. Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks are when an email is sent to you containing a link to a webpage which looks strikingly similar to an authentic webpage. And once you put in your private information such as login credentials, credit card numbers then such data are stored in the depositories of such scammers which can be used later to give action to their malicious intent.

In order to avoid such attacks, recheck the URL of the webpage you’re accessing. If you observe even a slight difference, then close the tab and thank the almighty. Think twice before divulging your personal information on any webpage. Do not download any attachment until you’re 100% sure about the authenticity of the sender. Enable 2-factor-verification for websites which allows so.

2. Nigerian Prince Scam
You might have come across an email stating that you have inherited millions of dollars of a ‘Nigerian Prince’ since he died in a plane crash. Such emails are called “419” emails or Nigerian scams. The poor English in such emails is the first giveaway. However, many newbies on the internet including the senior citizens give into such emails and fall for the trap. Through their sweet talks, they will coerce you into depositing few thousands as the “transfer expenses”. And you guessed right about what happens next!

Avoiding such scams are simple. DO NOT RESPOND TO SUCH EMAILS seems to be the only solution. If you have responded out of curiosity then do not send your personal information and do not deposit any amount that they ask you to do.

3. Viruses in email
Online scammers are smart enough to create a program that can send your banking information as soon as you conduct a monetary transaction over the internet. Such programs or viruses can be attached to the emails as a picture or video or other executable files. And once you click onto it, it latches on to your system and gives out the required information to the hacker.

Updating your OS as well as the antivirus on your system is the key to avoiding such attacks. Scan all your attachments in your emails for viruses and malware and if anything looks suspicious then do not click on them. If you do, then you stand the chance of losing all your hard earned money.

4. Lottery Scam!
Similar to the Nigerian Prince scam, lottery scams, too, are rampant. Needless to say but such emails are fraudulent and believe me, no one is going to give you even $5, forget about the $5 million you just “won.” This is another tactic of collecting your personal information and gaining monetary profit through the “processing fee”.

The solution is simple. Do not fall into the trap. Report such emails as spam and block the email address from sending you such emails again.

Endnote
The advent of technology has made the scammers, too, advance. Above tactics employed by them have been successful for them for a very long period. It’s easy to fall into their traps if you’re not aware of such scams. But once, you’re aware, make sure to not fall or any of the above. Keep your eyes open for any scandalous emails and follow the suggestions given above to avoid the catastrophe.

Do Not Respond To This Kind Of Email. It’s A Scam!

Criminals are tricking corporate employees into giving them payroll information. Here is how the scam works – and how you can prevent yourself from falling prey to it.

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IMAGE: Getty Images

Over the past couple months there have multiple well-publicized cases of criminals tricking corporate employees into giving them payroll information that the crooks then use to commit various crimes: commonly, employees’ identities are stolen and phony tax returns are filed in order to obtain illegal “refunds” of “overpayments,” but thieves continue to find other ways to monetize the data including filing fraudulent unemployment claims.

Here is how the scam works – and how you can prevent yourself (and your business) from falling prey to it.

In the first stage of the attack criminals perform reconnaissance – often checking social media for information that employees have “overshared.” Criminals love it when employees post nonpublic information about some work-related endeavor, for example, because anyone who later claims to be an employee of the company and refers to this information when contacting a real employee will be far more likely to be believed than someone who simply claims to work for the firm but does not know any “insider” information. Criminals also search social media and the Internet in general to find the right “target” employees within the firm whose data they are trying to steal.

After performing reconnaissance, criminals contact their targets – often via a “spear phishing” type email message, but sometimes through other media such as via social media, texting, or telephone. Spear phishing refers to communications targeting a specific intended victim and which impersonates a party whom the receiver is expected to trust. Several recent attacks have involved communications in which the “CEO” or other high level executive of a firm asks an employee with access to payroll information to send him or her the W2s for all employees of the firm; others forms of the attack ask an employee with authorization to make wire transfers to pay some particular party, others may ask the employee to visit some website for some purpose, when, in fact, the site actually installs malware.

Snapchat, Mercy Housing, and Sprouts Farmers Market have all fallen prey to the W2 scam within the last couple months, thereby exposing their employees to all sorts of risks. Other firms have been duped by similar attacks and sent out spreadsheets with personnel information, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is believed to have recently issued about $100-Million in fraudulent wire transfer payments as a result of receiving instructions fraudulent to do so.

Here are some ways to help prevent this problem from harming you and your business:

1.       Train employees not to overshare on social media and provide them with technology that warns them if they are doing so.

2.       Train employees not to respond to email requests for sensitive data without picking up the phone and speaking with the person requesting the data to be sent.

3.       Understand — and make sure your employees understand — how phishing works, and why it is a serious problem that is not getting better with time.

4.       Train employees to think about the risk level of requests. As Jonathan Sander, Vice President at Lieberman Software, noted, “If a payroll employee wants one W2, then maybe you just let them have it. If that same employee wants all of them all at once, then there should be something that triggers to say this is a different sort of request that deserves more scrutiny.”

5.       Utilize encryption – if a sensitive document is sent encrypted, an unauthorized party receiving it will have difficulty opening it. As Brad Bussie, Director of Product Management at STEALTHbits Technologies, phrased it: “As a best practice, personal identifiable information should never be transmitted in an un-encrypted format.” I agree.

6.       Use secure email – If a firm has the resources to do so, email security technology can help – but, do not rely on such technology to prevent problems since social engineering can come in through other channels (texting, social media messages, phone calls, etc.), and, sometimes problematic emails can still make it through. Nonetheless, reducing the threat via email can be useful; as Craig Young, Computer Security Researcher at Tripwire, noted “The use of cryptographically signed emails and securely configured mail services with advanced spam filters, sender policy framework (SPF), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) configurations can also greatly reduce the likelihood of a successful e-mail scam.” Keep in mind that by reducing the number of problematic emails that reach users, email security technology can cause people to become less vigilant – so make sure to reinforce the need for vigilance via training.

7.       Utilize Data Loss Prevention systems – these types of systems can block certain types of files and attachments from going out to external email addresses.

These are just a few ideas to think about, there are several others !!!

3 Easy Techniques to Protect Your Data

Data_LockSome of the best firms use very simple techniques to protect their companies’ information. These techniques can be very efficient with not only securing company data but also your employee’s personal information as well. These may take some time and resources to set up initially, but you will thank yourself down the road.

First you want to implement some sort of yearly or bi-yearly security training program. Something interactive that will keep them involved and teach them the basics of security in the office. Using game-ology or animation in this training will insure that the information sticks with the employees. Not only will you remain compliant with a yearly security training program but you can insure awareness around the main cause of information leaks and breaches; humans.

Once this program is in place, you want to put it to the test. One of the best ways is to create a phishing campaign. This entails you sending out a fake email from a fake address with a false, clickable link that will record the number of users that click on this link. You can set up this campaign to log information like, clicks, openings of emails and even going as far as viewing the users that clicked the link then filled out an informational form about themselves. A phishing campaign is not to be used as a form of punishment but a teaching point about what “exactly” to look for in a phishing email.

Lastly is a step you should take into your own hands as a security professional. Utilize a tool like bit locker and/or Digital Guardian to monitoring what your employees are doing on the internet and help prepare for the worse situations. Having timely backups on all saved information is a plus incase you need to roll back changes on someone’s machine due to a malicious link that was accidently clicked.

Overall the best options, no matter how you do it, is to educate the people that handle sensitive information on best practices and then create assurances around them to protect in case of an accident. Remember in this industry it is not “if” but “when” a security event will take place.

The 5 Biggest Cybersecurity Risks for Small and Medium Businesses

Cyber_Security

Cases of data breaches from major corporations around the world are becoming more and more frequent, much to the dismay of business owners all over the world. Every few weeks, there is a report about a big corporation’s data being leaked on some website, causing the company huge monetary losses as well as irreparable damage to reputation.

Although the alarming frequency of such high-profile data breaches would lead one to believe that the hackers must really have it in for large business owners, the fact still remains that small and medium business owners are just as susceptible to data breaches, if not more. Even if small and medium businesses realize that they are under threat as well, they might wrongly think that they would need to spend a large amount of money to keep the threat at bay.

The reality is anything but this. The major factor that decides whether you fall victim to such attacks is your level of negligence. Therefore, this article aims to make you aware about the 5 biggest threats your business might face.




The 5 biggest threats

1. Stolen laptops and mobiles
It is astonishing how much data is stolen or compromised when the devices used by employees are stolen. The one who has access to the systems can access the company data and use it as he or she wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for businesses to encrypt all data that is transferred on portable device of an employee. This would ensure that the data remains protected in the event that the device is stolen.
2. Unsecured Internet Networks
This is a blatant overlooking of your business’s security. Wireless networks are used by all businesses, and even small businesses today require off-shore and remote employees to access corporate data from elsewhere. Therefore, having a secure network is important to prevent unauthorized personnel from entering your network and causing problems.
3. Spear Phishing
This is another term for email scams. Email scams are one of the oldest tricks of the trade of gaining access to a user’s system. Hackers quite often send such tampered emails to all employees of a company in hopes that one of them falls for it. These attacks spread like fire, so if one employee system is affected, the entire network could be done soon enough. This is something employees should keep an eye out for as well, for such emails are usually simple to spot.
4. Malware
Malware is any code that has malicious intentions and has the capability to cause serious problems in your system. Malware are of different types, but they can be warded off by keeping a good anti-virus and anti-malware software on hand. It is also important to regularly update your anti-virus.
5. Insider Threats
This is something that is not always the case but is always a possibility. An employee holding a grudge against your company might take things further by mishandling your sensitive corporate data. To prevent such a thing from happening, make sure employees have differing access to corporate data according to their rank in your company. It is also wise to record the activity of all employees, big or small, to know if something is amiss.
Conclusion
We saw in this article how small and medium businesses can be targeted. The amount of money to be spent on security systems is by no means huge. All it takes is a little background knowledge to invest right in opposition to investing big.

Security Predictions 2016: Ransomware will continue to evolve and become increasingly complicated

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As we start each year, the team at thedigitalageblog looks into the crystal ball and makes predictions for the year.  Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong, but we find it useful to look to the future and document what we see.

Our Prediction centers on the ongoing Ransomware attacks:

Ransomware will continue to evolve and become increasingly complicated.  We continue to be shocked at the amount of ransomware attacks where the “victim” actually pays the ransom.  The FBI said it received 992 CryptoWall complaints from April 2014 to June 2015, representing total losses of $18 million—and that is just reported cases. Because criminals are finding this scheme lucrative, hackers will continue to work on producing virus variants that are harder to detect and decrypt. Ransomware depends on human error; it is usually activated by a user clicking on a link in a phishing email. Encryption of sensitive data combined with regular back-ups onto external devices or cloud services are an excellent defense against these schemes. If you have a current copy of your data or web site, business can continue with minimal disruption. Paying the ransom does not, after all, guarantee full restoration of your data or web site. It’s important to note that mobile devices can also be overtaken by ransomware, and often the accompanying threat is to ruin one’s reputation.