The root cause for the hack of the New Zealand Central Bank was the Accellion FTA (File Transfer Application) file sharing service.
During the weekend, the New Zealand central bank announced that a cyber attack hit its infrastructure. According to the Government organization, one of its data systems has been breached by an unidentified hacker, commercially and personally sensitive information might have been accessed by the attackers.
According to Governor Adrian Orr the attack did not impact the bank’s core operations, anyway, it added that the security breach has been contained. In response to the incident, the affected system had been taken offline.
“We are actively working with domestic and international cyber security experts and other relevant authorities as part of our investigation. This includes the GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre which has been notified and is providing guidance and advice,” the bank’s governor, Adrian Orr, said.
“We have been advised by the third party provider that this wasn’t a specific attack on the Reserve Bank, and other users of the file sharing application were also compromised.” “We recognise the public interest in this incident however we are not in a position to provide further details at this time.”
National authorities immediately launched an investigation into the incident with the help of cybersecurity experts.
According to the bank, threat actors compromised a service that stored commercially and personally sensitive information.
Early this week, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand confirmed that it uses Accellion FTA service to share information with external stakeholders.
“The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua continues to respond with urgency to a breach of a third party file sharing service used to share information with external stakeholders.” reads the press release published by the Reserve Bank.
The bank confirmed that a third party file sharing service provided by Accellion called FTA (File Transfer Application), which it was using, was illegally accessed in mid-December.
The bank is not providing additional information on the intrusion to avoid affecting the investigation.
According to Ancellion, less than 50 customers were affected by the flaw.
“In mid-December, Accellion was made aware of a P0 vulnerability in its legacy File Transfer Appliance (FTA) software. Accellion FTA is a 20 year old product that specializes in large file transfers.” reads the advisory published by the company. “Accellion resolved the vulnerability and released a patch within 72 hours to the less than 50 customers affected.”
Accellion pointed out that its enterprise content firewall platform, kiteworks, was not involved in any way.
“While Accellion maintains tight security standards for its legacy FTA product, we strongly encourage our customers to update to kiteworks, the modern enterprise content firewall platform,for the highest level of security and confidence,” concludes the US-based vendor.
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(SecurityAffairs – hacking, New Zealand)
AMD announced its 5000 series mobile processors at CES 2021 and two new lower-power desktop processors for OEM.
Ryzen 5000 mobile processors
AMD divided the Ryzen 5000 mobile family into the H-series high-performance processors for gaming laptops and the U-series mainstream processors for ultraportable.
With this release, AMD brings the Zen 3 architecture to its mobile segment. AMD claims that the Ryzen 5000 mobile chips are 16 per cent faster in single-threaded tasks and 14 per cent faster in multi-threaded performance than the previous gen.
The new chips fall between 15 to 45W+ thermal design power (TDP). AMD further divided the “H” suffix into “H” for 20W, “HS” for 35W, and “HX” for 45W+ TDP. Chips designed for mainstream have the “U” suffix and 15W TDP. In addition, HX chips support manual overclocking, hence their 45W+ TDP.
All Ryzen 9 series chips have 8-cores/16-threads and 20MB of cache. Their performance is segmented by their thermals. At the top is the 45W+ Ryzen 9 5980HX. As the hottest chip, the Ryzen 9 5890HX also has the highest frequency, clocking in at 4.8GHz boost and 3.3GHz base.
During the presentation, AMD CEO Lisa Su noted that the Ryzen 9 5900X beats the Intel Core i9-10980HK, which also has eight cores and 16 threads, in PassMark and 3DMark FireStrike Physics. Most importantly, Su showed the Ryzen 9 5900HX beating the Core i9-10980HK in Cinebench’s single-threaded test by 13 per cent. She also demonstrated the PlayStation console exlusive Horizon Zero Dawn running at 100 FPS at 1080p on the Ryzen 9 5900HX, and said that gaming notebooks with Ryzen 5000 mobile processors can deliver “smooth gaming experiences” at 4K.
The Ryzen 7 segment is topped off by the Ryzen 7 5800H, an 8-core/16-thread part that measures at 4.4GHz boost and 3.2GHz. Moving down the ladder, the Ryzen 5 5600HS carries 6-cores/12-threads and 4.2GHz / 3.3 GHz boost.
In the mainstream segment, the Ryzen 7 5800U is the company’s best offering. It has eight cores just like the performance range but caps the base clock to 1.9GHz due to its lower-rated TDP. Also note that the Ryzen 5 5500U and the Ryzen 3 5300U are based on Zen 2 architecture, not Zen 3.
Su compared the Ryzen 7 5800U to the Core i7-1185G7, Intel’s current best mainstream mobile processor. The company’s internal tests showed that the Ryzen 7 5800U leads video encoding in Adobe Premiere by 44 per cent thanks to its higher core count. In addition, the Ryzen 7 5800U was shown to lead in PC Mark 10 content creation and application benchmarks.
AMD says it expects the Ryzen 5000 series to power over 150 devices this year.
New desktop processors for OEM
AMD also announced two desktop processors with reduced TDP for OEMs. The Ryzen 9 5900 and the Ryzen 7 5800 are lower-powered alternatives the Ryzen 9 5900X and the Ryzen 7 5800X. They both feature 65W TDP, down from the 105W of the originals. As expected, reducing the TDP also drops the clock speed, especially for the base clock. It’s not yet known whether these new chips support overclocking.The post CES 2021: AMD launches Ryzen 5000 mobile processors and new desktop processors for OEM first appeared on IT World Canada.
Top gaming companies positioned to be next major cyberattack target
After healthcare and higher education emerged as lucrative targets for cyberattacks in 2020, researchers have identified the video gaming industry as another key target. By scouring the dark web for stolen data belonging to any of the top 25 largest gaming firms, over a million unique and newly uploaded accounts were discovered. Additionally, researchers found credentials for over 500,000 gaming company employees exposed in previous data breaches but used for multiple accounts.
Hardcoded backdoors discovered in Zyxel devices
Researchers recently stumbled upon an undocumented admin account on multiple Zyxel devices using basic login credentials and granting full access to devices commonly used to monitor internet traffic. This vulnerability was first spotted when several warnings for unauthorized login attempts were identified using admin/admin as the username and password, presumably in hopes of accessing other unprotected devices on the network. This undocumented account can only be viewed through an SSH connection or a web interface and could be an issue for over 100,000 Zyxel devices currently connected to the internet.
Vodafone operation reveals major data breach
Vodafone’s budget operators ho. Mobile has revealed their systems were compromised late last month and a database containing sensitive information belonging to nearly 2.5 million customers was leaked. Along with personally identifiable information is data related to customer SIM-cards, which can be used to enable SIM-swap attacks that allow attackers to control specific users’ messaging services. The stolen database has been for sale on a dark web for a starting price of $50,000 since shortly after the attack was discovered.
ElectroRAT quietly steals cryptocurrency across multiple operating systems
After operating for nearly a year the silent cryptocurrency stealer ElectroRAT has finally been identified using multiple different Trojanized apps to operate on Windows, Mac and Linux systems. To make these malicious apps appear more credible, authors placed advertisments on social media and cryptocurrency-related websites that have led to thousands of installations. By spreading the attack across multiple different operating systems, the attackers increased their chances of accessing information of value.
Vancouver’s TransLink Suffers Ransomware Attack
Nearly a month after officials identified technical issues with IT systems at Metro Vancouver’s TransLink transportation authority, the interruption was discovered to be the work of the Egregor Ransomware group. While the attack didn’t compromise customer data, it is believed that employee banking and personal information was stolen. TransLink employees are working to restore systems to proper functionality, though some seem to have been more damaged than others.
The post Cyber News Rundown: Gaming Industry in Crosshairs of Cybercriminals appeared first on Webroot Blog.
The latest GCDCS event went virtual in December 2020, but that didn’t prevent the folks at InsightaaS from filling the event up with a long list of experts like Mark Monroe, Eugene Roman and Susanna Kass.The post Top takeaways from the 2020 Great Canadian Data Centre Symposium first appeared on IT World Canada.
Even as the pandemic continues to send shockwaves through the economy, Canadians are looking for businesses to enhance their focus on inequality, inequity, and environmental sustainability. That's the finding of a new studyThe post Fairness and sustainability: New priorities for business? first appeared on IT World Canada.
“It’s definitely dead,” says Tyler Moffitt, security analyst at Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies. “At least,” he amends, “for now.”
Maze ransomware, which made our top 10 list for Nastiest Malware of 2020 (not to mention numerous headlines throughout the last year), was officially shut down in November of 2020. The ransomware group behind it issued a kind of press release, announcing the shutdown and that they had no partners or successors who would be taking up the mantle. But before that, Maze had been prolific and successful. In fact, shortly before the shutdown, Maze accounted for an estimated 12% of all successful ransomware attacks. So why did they shut down?
I sat down with Tyler to get his take on the scenario and find out whether Maze is well and truly gone.
Why do you think Maze was so successful?
Maze had a great business model. They were the group that popularized the breach leak/auction website. So, they didn’t just steal and encrypt your files like other ransomware; they threatened to expose the data for all to see or even sell it at auction.
Why was this shift so revolutionary?
The Maze group tended to target pretty huge organizations with 10,000 employees or more. Businesses that big are likely to have decent backups, so just taking the data and holding it for ransom isn’t much of an incentive.
Now think about this: those huge businesses also would’ve been subject to pricey fines for data breaches because of regulations like GDPR; and they’re also more likely to have big budgets to pay a ransom. So, instead of simply saying, “we have your data, pay up,” they said, “we have your data and if you don’t pay, we’ll expose it to the world – which includes the regulators and your customers.” Most of the time, paying the ransom is going to be the more cost effective (and less embarrassing) option. We don’t know if the Maze group invented this tactic, but they definitely set the trend, and a bunch of other ransomware groups started following it.
Other than the leak sites, did they do anything else noteworthy or different from other groups?
One of the bigger threat trends we saw in 2020 was malware groups partnering up for different pieces of the infection chain, such as Trojans, backdoors, droppers, etc. The botnet Emotet, for example, was responsible for a huge percentage of ransomware infections from various different groups. Maze, however, was pretty self-contained. We saw them working with a few other groups throughout 2020, but they had their own malspam campaign for delivery and everything else they needed in-house, so to speak. They were like a one-stop shop.
Do you think the move to remote work during the pandemic contributed to their success?
Absolutely, though you could say that about any ransomware group. Phishing and RDP attacks really ramped up when people started working from home. Home networks and personal devices are generally much less secure than corporate ones, and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to exploit a given situation for their gain.
If Maze was doing so well, why did they shut down?
Probably because they’d gotten too much attention. The more notoriety you get, the harder it is to operate. We see this with a lot of malware groups. They shut down for a while, either to lie low because the heat is on, or to just spend the money they’ve gotten from their payouts and enjoy life. Or, sometimes, they don’t lie low at all but just rebrand themselves under a new name. Either way, they tend to come back. For example, a ransomware variant called Ryuk went dark and came back as Conti. Emotet went away for a long time too and then came back under the same group name.
How can you tell when an old group has rebranded?
Unless they announce it in some way, the only way to really tell is if you can get a sample of the malware and reverse engineer it and look at the code. One of our threat researchers did that with a sample of Sodinokibi and discovered it had “GandCrab version 6” in its code. So, that’s an example of a rebrand, but it can be hard to spot.
Do you think Maze is done for good?
Not a chance. They attacked huge targets and got massive payouts. Most ransomware groups attack smaller businesses who are less likely to have strong enough security measures. Even the ones that targeted larger corporations, like Ryuk, still attacked businesses one-fifth the size of a typical Maze target. Now, the Maze group can relax and take a lavish vacation with all the money they got. But I’d be pretty shocked if they just abandoned such a winning business model entirely.
The verdict: Maze may be gone for now, but experts are fairly certain we haven’t seen the last of this virulent and highly successful malware group. In the meantime, Tyler advises businesses everywhere to use the lull as an opportunity to batten down their cyber resilience strategies by implementing layered security measures, locking down RDP, and educating employees on cybersecurity and risk avoidance.
Stay tuned for more ransomware developments right here on the Webroot blog.
The past year has shown us all just how critical frontline workers are to our communities and our economy. They’re the people behind the counter, in the call centers, in hospital ICUs, on the supermarket floor—doing the critical work that makes the difference in feeding our families, caring for the sick, and driving the long-tail economy. Frontline workers account for over 80 percent of the global workforce—two billion people worldwide. Yet because of high scale, rapid turnover, and fragmented processes, frontline workers often lack the tools to make their demanding jobs a little easier.
We believe identity is at the center of digital transformation and the key to democratizing technology for the entire frontline workforce including managers, frontline workers, operations, and IT. This week at the National Retail Federation (NRF) tradeshow, we announced several new features for frontline workers. Building on this announcement, I’m excited to dive into three generally available Azure Active Directory features that empower frontline workers:
1. Streamline common IT tasks with My Staff
Azure Active Directory provides the ability to delegate user management to frontline managers through the My Staff portal, helping save valuable time and reduce security risks. By enabling simplified password resets and phone management directly from the store or factory floor, managers can grant access to employees without routing the request through the helpdesk, IT, or operations.
Figure 1: Delegated user management in the My Staff portal
2. Accelerate onboarding with simplified authentication
My Staff also enables frontline managers to register their team members’ phone numbers for SMS sign-in. In many verticals, frontline workers maintain a local username and password—a cumbersome, expensive, and error-prone solution. When IT enables authentication using SMS sign-in, frontline workers can log in with single sign-on (SSO) for Microsoft Teams and other apps using just their phone number and a one-time passcode (OTP) sent via SMS. This makes signing in for frontline workers simple and secure, delivering quick access to the apps they need most.
Figure 2: SMS sign-in
Additional layers of Conditional Access enable you to control who is signing in using SMS, allowing for a balance of security and ease of use.
3. Improve security for shared devices
Many companies use shared devices so frontline workers can do inventory management and point-of-sale transactions—without the IT burden of provisioning and tracking individual devices. With shared device sign out, it’s easy for a firstline worker to securely sign out of all apps and web browsers on any shared device before handing it back to a hub or passing it off to a teammate on the next shift. You can choose to integrate this capability into all your line-of-business iOS and Android apps using the Microsoft Authentication Library.
Figure 3: Shared device sign-out screen
Additionally, you can use Microsoft Endpoint Manager to set up and customize how frontline workers use shared devices, with three new preview features for provisioning, setting up device-based Conditional Access policies, and customizing the sign-in experience with Managed Home Screen.
Working in partnership with our customers, we’re committed to bringing you purpose-built frontline capabilities that deliver secure identity and access that is tailored to your needs and environment. We’ll continue to innovate in 2021, adding features that simplify work, bring people together, and help organizations of all sizes achieve more.
To learn more about Microsoft Identity solutions visit our website. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @AzureAD and @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.
The post Azure Active Directory empowers frontline workers with simplified and secure access appeared first on Microsoft Security.
Even companies that aren’t traditionally technology companies now need to embrace smarter preventative measures while recognizing market gaps and new ways of engaging people through modernization.The post The smart returns of IT – from safety to profitability first appeared on IT World Canada.
New mesh Wi-Fi routers may be the answer to your wireless signal woes, but how about your privacy and security?
The post CES 2021: Router swarms invade your home (and know where you are) appeared first on WeLiveSecurity
Intel says Swan's departure is unrelated to the company's financial performance.The post Intel CEO Bob Swan to step down next month, replaced by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger first appeared on IT World Canada.
A new year brings about countless new opportunities, but also, unfortunately, the chance for previous menaces to grow and evolve. Such is the case with Egregor ransomware. Since anticipation and prevention are more than welcome, let’s find out more about it and what you can do to combat it in order to keep your business […]
The post Egregor Ransomware: Origins, Operating Mode, Recent Incidents appeared first on Heimdal Security Blog.
Today's podcast reports on the capture of a big criminal website, a hacker gets 12 years in prison, digital currency thefts, stolen COVID vaccine data leaked, stolen digital currency and moreThe post Cyber Security Today – The DarkMarket criminal website shut down, hacker gets 12 years in jail, digital currency thefts and more first appeared on IT World Canada.
There are some familiar faces and some newcomers on this Glassdoor's 13th annual Employees’ Choice Awards, honouring the Best Places to Work in 2021 across Canada.The post Canada’s top 10 tech companies to work for in 2021 first appeared on IT World Canada.
…I was floored on Wednesday when, glued to my television, I saw police in some areas of the U.S. Capitol using little more than those same mobile gates I had the ones that look like bike racks that can hook together to try to keep the crowds away from sensitive areas and, later, push back people intent on accessing the grounds. (A new fence that appears to be made of sturdier material was being erected on Thursday.) That’s the same equipment and approximately the same amount of force I was able to use when a group of fans got a little feisty and tried to get backstage at a Vanilla Ice show.
There’s not ever going to be enough police or security at any event to stop people if they all act in unison; if enough people want to get to Vanilla Ice at the same time, they’re going to get to Vanilla Ice. Social constructs and basic decency, not lightweight security gates, are what hold everyone except the outliers back in a typical crowd.
When there are enough outliers in a crowd, it throws the normal dynamics of crowd control off; everyone in my business knows this. Citizens tend to hold each other to certain standards which is why my 40,000-person town does not have 40,000 police officers, and why the 8.3 million people of New York City aren’t policed by 8.3 million police officers.
Social norms are the fabric that make an event run smoothly — and, really, hold society together. There aren’t enough police in your town to handle it if everyone starts acting up at the same time.
I like that she uses the term “outliers,” and I make much the same points in Liars and Outliers.
In a previous blog, I discussed securing AWS management configurations by combating six common threats with a focus on using both the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Amazon Web Services Foundations benchmark policy along with general security best practices. Now I’d like to do the same thing for Microsoft Azure. I had the privilege of being involved […]… Read More
The post 8 Cloud Security Best Practice Fundamentals for Microsoft Azure appeared first on The State of Security.
AMD’s CES keynote, GoFundMe bans fundraising for travel expenses used for potentially violent events, and concerns over Amazon workers intensify.The post Hashtag Trending – AMD’s CES keynote; GoFundMe takes a stand; More concerns over Amazon workers first appeared on IT World Canada.
Top Cyber Security Threats to Look Out for in 2021
2020 was unexpectedly defined by a global pandemic. Throughout the year, we have all had to figure out how to best live our lives online – from working from home to distance learning to digitally connecting with loved ones. As 2020 comes to a close, we must ask: will this new normal continue into 2021, and how will it affect how we connect – both with each other and with our online world?
McAfee assessed the cybersecurity landscape as we head into the New Year, highlighting the key takeaways we should keep in mind to help protect our digital lives:
Hacking the Home
Home is a safe space – or is it? With more consumers living and working from home, we have seen an increase in connected devices within the home. In fact, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, McAfee Secure Home Platform device monitoring shows a 22% increase in the number of connected home devices globally and a 60% increase in the U.S. These trends are also carrying over into mobile shopping habits. Almost 80% of shoppers have found themselves using their IoT devices to make more purchases since the beginning of the pandemic. The evolving world of the connected lifestyle gives hackers more potential entry points to homes and consumers information- through devices, apps and web services- and in 2021, we will be monitoring how this trend evolves.
With more of us working remotely, distance learning, and seeking online entertainment, cybercriminals will look to exploit our vulnerabilities. For example, remote employees are more likely to use personal devices while working and log onto home networks that are not fully secured. What’s more, many of the systems behind consumer networks have not had their passwords changed from the default settings since it was first introduced into the home . If a criminal can use the default credentials to hack the consumer’s network infrastructure, they may also gain access to other network devices – whether they are used for school, work, or leisure.
New Mobile Payment Scams
Touchless solutions for payments are becoming more popular as we all navigate the curveballs of COVID-19. Mobile payment apps provide the convenience of both paying for services and receiving payments without the hazards of touching cases or credit and debit cards. However, fraudsters are also following the money to mobile, as research by RSA’s Fraud and Risk Intelligence team shows that 72% of cyber fraud activity involved mobile in the fourth quarter of 2019. McAfee predicts an increase in “receive”-based exploits in 2021, since they provide a quick and easily entry for fraudsters to scam unsuspicious consumers by combining phishing with payment URLs.
Imagine receiving an email stating that you’re receiving a refund for a concert that was canceled due to COVID-19. The email instructs you to click on the URL in the next message, fill in your bank information, and “accept the refund.” But instead of getting your money back, you find that you’ve handed over your financial data to scammers. As we continue to adopt mobile payment methods in 2021, it’s important to remember that hackers will likely take advantage of these convenient touchless systems.
“Qshing” or QR Code Abuse
With the pandemic, more industries have QR codes to make our lives easier- with Statista reporting that over 11 million US households are expected to scan QR codes by 2020. From restaurants to personal care salons to fitness studies, QR codes help limit direct contact with consumers – you easily scan the code, see services/items offered, and select and purchase your desired items. But do you stop and think about how this might be putting your personal data at risk? As it turns out, QR codes provide scammers with a new avenue for disguising themselves as legitimate businesses and spreading malicious links.
Scammers are quick to exploit popular or new technology for their malicious tricks, and QR codes are no different. In fact, McAfee predicts that hackers will find opportunities to use social engineering to gain access to our personal data in a single scan. Take restaurant owners looking to make QR codes that give us quick access to their menus. Knowing that these business owners are looking to download apps that generate QR codes, bad actors are predicted to entice them into downloading malicious apps that pretend to do the same.
But instead of generating a code, the app will steal the owner’s data, which scammers could then use to trick loyal diners like you and me. Once a hacker gains access to the restaurant’s customer database, they can use this information to launch phishing scams under the guise of our favorite local eateries.
Stay Secure in 2021 and Beyond
To help ensure that you are one step ahead of cybercriminals in the upcoming year, make a resolution to adopt the following online security practices and help protect your digital life:
Be cautious of emails asking you to act
If you receive an email, call, or text asking you to download software, app, or pay a certain amount of money, do not click or take any direct action from the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links or forking over money unnecessarily.
Hover over links to see and verify the URL
If someone sends you a message with a link, hover over the link without clicking. This will allow you to see a link preview and check for any typos or grammatical errors – both of which are typical signs of a phishing link. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the message altogether.
Use strong, unique passwords
When setting up a new IoT device, network, or online account, always change the default credentials to a password or passphrase that is strong and unique. Using different passwords or passphrases for each of your online accounts helps protect the majority of your data if one of your accounts becomes vulnerable.
Browse with caution
Use a comprehensive security solution, like McAfee Total Protection, which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor, which can help identify malicious websites.
The Year 2020 brought a historic pandemic and bad actors leveraging COVID-19-themed threats to test our security operations and our unprecedented shift to a remote work life. As we enter 2021, these concerns are still at the forefront, but we are also looking ahead to other cyber threats likely to confront us in the months and years ahead.
The December 2020 revelations around the SUNBURST campaigns exploiting the SolarWinds Orion platform have revealed a new attack vector – the supply chain – that will continue to be exploited.
The ever-increasing use of connected devices, apps and web services in our homes will also make us more susceptible to digital home break-ins. This threat is compounded by many individuals continuing to work from home, meaning this threat not only impacts the consumer and their families, but enterprises as well.
Attacks on cloud platforms and users will evolve into a highly polarized state where they are either “mechanized and widespread” or “sophisticated and precisely handcrafted”.
Mobile users will need to beware of phishing or smishing messages aimed at exploiting and defrauding them through mobile payment services.
The use of QR codes has notably accelerated during the pandemic, raising the specter of a new generation of social engineering techniques that seek to exploit consumers and gain access to their personal data.
Finally, the most sophisticated threat actors will increasingly use social networks to target high value individuals working in sensitive industry sectors and roles.
A new year offers hope and opportunities for consumers and enterprises, but also more cybersecurity challenges. I hope you find these helpful in planning your 2021 security strategies.
–Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow, Advanced Threat Research
Supply Chain Backdoor Techniques to Proliferate
The revelations around the SolarWinds-SUNBURST espionage campaign will spark a proliferation in copycat supply chain attacks of this kind.
On December 13, 2020, the cybersecurity industry learned nation-state threat actors had compromised SolarWinds’s Orion IT monitoring and management software and used it to distribute a malicious software backdoor called SUNBURST to dozens of that company’s customers, including several high-profile U.S. government agencies.
This SolarWinds-SUNBURST campaign is the first major supply chain attack of its kind and has been referred to by many as the “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that U.S. cybersecurity experts have been predicting for a decade and a half.
The campaign also represents a shift in tactics where nation state threat actors have employed a new weapon for cyber-espionage. Just as the use of nuclear weapons at the end of WWII changed military strategy for the next 75 years, the use of a supply chain attack has changed the way we need to consider defense against cyber-attacks.
This supply chain attack operated at the scale of a worm such as WannaCry in 2017, combined with the precision and lethality of the 2014 Sony Pictures or 2015 U.S. government Office of Personnel Management (OPM) attacks.
Within hours of its discovery, the magnitude of the campaign became frighteningly clear to organizations responsible for U.S. national security, economic competitiveness, and even consumer privacy and security.
It enables U.S. adversaries to steal all manners of information, from inter-governmental communications to national secrets. Attackers can, in turn, leverage this information to influence or impact U.S. policy through malicious leaks. Every breached agency may have different secondary cyber backdoors planted, meaning that there is no single recipe to evict the intrusion across the federal government.
While some may argue that government agencies are legitimate targets for nation-state spy craft, the campaign also impacted private companies. Unlike government networks which store classified information on isolated networks, private organizations often have critical intellectual property on networks with access to the internet. Exactly what intellectual property or private data on employees has been stolen will be difficult to determine, and the full extent of the theft may never be known.
This type of attack also poses a threat to individuals and their families given that in today’s highly interconnected homes, a breach of consumer electronics companies can result in attackers using their access to smart appliances such as TVs, virtual assistants, and smart phones to steal their information or act as a gateway to attack businesses while users are working remotely from home.
What makes this type of attack so dangerous is that it uses trusted software to bypass cyber defenses, infiltrate victim organizations with the backdoor and allow the attacker to take any number of secondary steps. This could involve stealing data, destroying data, holding critical systems for ransom, orchestrating system malfunctions that result in kinetic damage, or simply implanting additional malicious content throughout the organization to stay in control even after the initial threat appears to have passed.
McAfee believes the discovery of the SolarWinds-SUNBURST campaign will expose attack techniques that other malicious actors around the world will seek to duplicate in 2021 and beyond.
Hacking the Home to Hack the Office
By Suhail Ansari, Dattatraya Kulkarni and Steve Povolny
The increasingly dense overlay of numerous connected devices, apps and web services used in our professional and private lives will grow the connected home’s attack surface to the point that it raises significant new risks for individuals and their employers.
While the threat to connected homes is not new, what is new is the emergence of increased functionality in both home and business devices, and the fact that these devices connect to each other more than ever before. Compounding this is the increase in remote work – meaning many of us are using these connected devices more than ever.
In 2020, the global pandemic shifted employees from the office to the home, making the home environment a work environment. In fact, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, McAfee Secure Home Platform device monitoring shows a 22% increase in the number of connected home devices globally and a 60% increase in the U.S. Over 70% of the traffic from these devices originated from smart phones, laptops, other PCs and TVs, and over 29% originated from IoT devices such as streaming devices, gaming consoles, wearables, and smart lights.
McAfee saw cybercriminals increase their focus on the home attack surface with a surge in various phishing message schemes across communications channels. The number of malicious phishing links McAfee blocked grew over 21% from March to November, at an average of over 400 links per home.
This increase is significant and suggests a flood of phishing messages with malicious links entered home networks through devices with weaker security measures.
Millions of individual employees have become responsible for their employer’s IT security in a home office filled with “soft” targets, unprotected devices from the kitchen, to the family room, to the bedroom. Many of these home devices are “orphaned” in that their manufacturers fail to properly support them with security updates addressing new threats or vulnerabilities.
This contrasts with a corporate office environment filled with devices “hardened” by enterprise-grade security measures. We now work with consumer-grade networking equipment configured by “us” and lacking the central management, regular software updates and security monitoring of the enterprise.
Because of this, we believe cybercriminals will advance the home as an attack surface for campaigns targeting not only our families but also corporations. The hackers will take advantage of the home’s lack of regular firmware updates, lack of security mitigation features, weak privacy policies, vulnerability exploits, and user susceptibility to social engineering.
By compromising the home environment, these malicious actors will launch a variety of attacks on corporate as well as consumer devices in 2021.
Attacks on Cloud Platforms Become Highly Mechanized and Handcrafted
By Sandeep Chandana
Attacks on cloud platforms will evolve into a highly polarized state where they are either “mechanized and widespread” or “targeted and precisely handcrafted”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also hastened the pace of the corporate IT transition to the cloud, accelerating the potential for new corporate cloud-related attack schemes. With increased cloud adoption and the large number of enterprises working from home, not only is there a growing number of cloud users but also a lot more data both in motion and being transacted.
McAfee cloud usage data from more than 30 million McAfee MVISION Cloud users worldwide shows a 50% increase overall in enterprise cloud use across all industries the first four months of 2020. Our analysis showed an increase across all cloud categories, usage of collaboration services such as Microsoft O365 by 123%, increase in use of business services such as Salesforce by 61% and the largest growth in collaboration services such as Cisco Webex (600%), Zoom (+350%), Microsoft Teams (+300%), and Slack (+200%). From January to April 2020, corporate cloud traffic from unmanaged devices increased 100% across all verticals.
During the same period, McAfee witnessed a surge in attacks on cloud accounts, an estimated 630% increase overall, with variations in the sectors that were targeted. Transportation led vertical industries with a 1,350% increase in cloud attacks, followed by education (+1,114%), government (+773%), manufacturing (+679%), financial services (+571%) and energy and utilities (+472%).
The increasing proportion of unmanaged devices accessing the enterprise cloud has effectively made home networks an extension of the enterprise infrastructure. Cybercriminals will develop new, highly mechanized, widespread attacks for better efficacy against thousands of heterogenous home networks.
One example could be a widespread brute force attack against O365 users, where the attacker seeks to leverage stolen credentials and exploit users’ poor practice of re-using passwords across different platforms and applications. As many as 65% of users reuse the same password for multiple or all accounts according to a 2019 security survey conducted by Google. Where an attacker would traditionally need to manually encode first and last name combinations to find valid usernames, a learning algorithm could be used to predict O365 username patterns.
Additionally, cybercriminals could use AI and ML to bypass traditional network filtering technologies deployed to protect cloud instances. Instead of launching a classic brute force attack from compromised IPs until the IPs are blocked, resource optimization algorithms will be used to make sure the compromised IPs launch attacks against multiple services and sectors, to maximize the lifespan of compromised IPs used for the attacks. Distributed algorithms and reinforcement learning will be leveraged to identify attack plans primarily focused on avoiding account lockouts.
McAfee also predicts that, as enterprise cloud security postures mature, attackers will be forced to handcraft highly targeted exploits for specific enterprises, users and applications.
The recent Capital One breach was an example of an advanced attack of this kind. The attack was thoroughly cloud-native. It was sophisticated and intricate in that a number of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations across cloud applications (and infrastructure) were exploited and chained. It was not a matter of chance that the hackers were successful, as the attack was very well hand-crafted.
We believe attackers will start leveraging threat surfaces across devices, networks and the cloud in these ways in the months and years ahead.
New Mobile Payment Scams
By Suhail Ansari and Dattatraya Kulkarni
As users become more and more reliant on mobile payments, cybercriminals will increasingly seek to exploit and defraud users with scam SMS phishing or smishing messages containing malicious payment URLs.
Mobile payments have become more and more popular as a convenient mechanism to conduct transactions. A Worldpay Global Payments Report for 2020 estimated that 41% of payments today are on mobile devices, and this number looks to increase at the expense of traditional credit and debit cards by 2023. An October 2020 study by Allied Market Research found that the global mobile payment market size was valued at $1.48 trillion in 2019, and is projected to reach $12.06 trillion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 30.1% from 2020 to 2027.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven the adoption of mobile payment methods higher as consumers have sought to avoid contact-based payments such as cash or physical credit cards.
But fraudsters have followed the money to mobile, pivoting from PC browsers and credit cards to mobile payments. According to research by RSA’s Fraud and Risk Intelligence team, 72% of cyber fraud activity involved the mobile channel in the fourth quarter of 2019. The researchers observed that this represented “the highest percentage of fraud involving mobile apps in nearly two years and underscores a broader shift away from fraud involving web browsers on PCs.”
McAfee predicts there will be an increase in “receive”-based mobile payment exploits, where a user receives a phishing email, direct message or smishing message telling him that he can receive a payment, transaction refund or cash prize by clicking on a malicious payment URL. Instead of receiving a payment, however, the user has been conned into sending a payment from his account.
This could take shape in schemes where fraudsters set up a fake call center using a product return and servicing scam, where the actors send a link via email or SMS, offering a refund via a mobile payment app, but the user is unaware that they are agreeing to pay versus receiving a refund. The figures below show the fraudulent schemes in action.
Mobile wallets are making efforts to make it easier for users to understand whether they are paying or receiving. Unfortunately, as the payment methods proliferate, fraudsters succeed in finding victims who either cannot distinguish credit from debit or can be prompted into quick action by smart social engineering.
Governments and banks are making painstaking efforts to educate users to understand the use of one-time passwords (OTPs) and that they should not be shared. Adoption of frameworks such as caller ID authentication (also known as STIR/SHAKEN) help in ensuring that the caller ID is not masked by fraudsters, but they do not prevent a fraudster from registering an entity that has a name close to the genuine provider of service.
In the same way that mobile apps have simplified the ability to conduct transactions, McAfee predicts the technology is making it easier to take advantage of the convenience for fraudulent purposes.
Qshing: QR Code Abuse in the Age of COVID
By Suhail Ansari and Dattatraya Kulkarni
Cybercriminals will seek new and ever cleverer ways to use social engineering and QR Code practices to gain access to consumer victims’ personal data.
The global pandemic has created the need for all of us to operate and transact in all areas of our lives in a “contactless” way. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that QR codes have emerged as a convenient input mechanism to make mobile transactions more efficient.
QR code usage has proliferated into many areas, including payments, product marketing, packaging, restaurants, retail, and recreation just to name a few. QR codes are helping limit direct contact between businesses and consumers in every setting from restaurants to personal care salons, to fitness studios. They allow them to easily scan the code, shop for services or items offered, and easily purchase them.
A September 2020 survey by MobileIron found that 86% of respondents scanned a QR code over the course of the previous year and over half (54%) reported an increase in the use of such codes since the pandemic began. Respondents felt most secure using QR codes at restaurants or bars (46%) and retailers (38%). Two-thirds (67%) believe that the technology makes life easier in a touchless world and over half (58%) wish to see it used more broadly in the future.
In just the area of discount coupons, an estimated 1.7 billion coupons using QR codes were scanned globally in 2017, and that number is expected to increase by a factor of three to 5.3 billion by 2022. In just four years, from 2014 to 2018, the use of QR codes on consumer product packaging in Korea and Japan increased by 83%. The use of QR codes in such “smart” packaging is increasing at an annual rate of 8% globally.
In India, the government’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) uses QR codes in association with Aadhaar, India’s unique ID number, to enable readers to download citizens’ demographic information as well as their photographs.
However, the technicalities of QR codes are something of a mystery to most users, and that makes them potentially dangerous if cybercriminals seek to exploit them to target victims.
The MobileIron report found that whereas 69% of respondents believe they can distinguish a malicious URL based on its familiar text-based format, only 37% believe they can distinguish a malicious QR code using its unique dot pattern format. Given that QR codes are designed precisely to hide the text of the URL, users find it difficult to identify and even suspect malicious QR codes.
Almost two-thirds (61%) of respondents know that QR codes can open a URL and almost half (49%) know that a QR code can download an application. But fewer than one-third (31%) realize that a QR code can make a payment, cause a user to follow someone on social media (22%), or start a phone call (21%). A quarter of respondents admit scanning a QR code that did something unexpected (such as take them to a suspicious website), and 16% admitted that they were unsure if a QR code actually did what it was intended to do.
It is therefore no surprise that QR codes have been used in phishing schemes to avoid anti-phishing solutions’ attempts to identify malicious URLs within email messages. They can also be used on webpages or social media.
In such schemes, victims scan fraudulent QRs and find themselves taken to malicious websites where they are asked to provide login, personal info, usernames and passwords, and payment information, which criminals then steal. The sites could also be used to simply download malicious programs onto a user’s device.
McAfee predicts that hackers will increasingly use these QR code schemes and broaden them using social engineering techniques. For instance, knowing that business owners are looking to download QR code generator apps, bad actors will entice consumers into downloading malicious QR code generator apps that pretend to do the same. In the process of generating the QR code (or even pretending to be generating the correct QR code), the malicious apps will steal the victim’s sensitive data, which scammers could then use for a variety of fraudulent purposes.
Although the QR codes themselves are a secure and convenient mechanism, we expect them to be misused by bad actors in 2021 and beyond.
Social Networks as Workplace Attack Vectors
By Raj Samani
McAfee predicts that sophisticated cyber adversaries will increasingly target, engage and compromise corporate victims using social networks as an attack vector.
Cyber adversaries have traditionally relied heavily on phishing emails as an attack vector for compromising organizations through individual employees. However, as organizations have implemented spam detection, data loss prevention (DLP) and other solutions to prevent phishing attempts on corporate email accounts, more sophisticated adversaries are pivoting to target employees through social networking platforms to which these increasingly effective defenses cannot be applied.
McAfee has observed such threat actors increasingly using the messaging features of LinkedIn, What’s App, Facebook and Twitter to engage, develop relationships with and then compromise corporate employees. Through these victims, adversaries compromise the broader enterprises that employ them. McAfee predicts that such actors will seek to broaden the use of this attack vector in 2021 and beyond for a variety of reasons.
Malicious actors have used the social network platforms in broad scoped schemes to perpetrate relatively low-level criminal scams. However, prominent actors such as APT34, Charming Kitten, and Threat Group-2889 (among others) have been identified using these platforms for higher-value, more targeted campaigns on the strength of the medium’s capacity for enabling customized content for specific types of victims.
Operation North Star demonstrates a state-of-the-art attack of this kind. Discovered and exposed by McAfee in August 2020, the campaign showed how lax social media privacy controls, ease of development and use of fake LinkedIn user accounts and job descriptions could be used to lure and attack defense sector employees.
Just as individuals and organizations engage potential consumer customers on social platforms by gathering information, developing specialized content, and conducting targeted interactions with customers, malicious actors can similarly use these platform attributes to target high value employees with a deeper level of engagement.
Additionally, individual employees engage with social networks in a capacity that straddles both their professional and personal lives. While enterprises assert security controls over corporate-issued devices and place restrictions on how consumer devices access corporate IT assets, user activity on social network platforms is not monitored or controlled in the same way. As mentioned, LinkedIn and Twitter direct messaging will not be the only vectors of concern for the corporate security operations center (SOC).
While it is unlikely that email will ever be replaced as an attack vector, McAfee foresees this social network platform vector becoming more common in 2021 and beyond, particularly among the most advanced actors.