Category Archives: Cybercrime

Facebook phishing surges, Microsoft still most impersonated brand

Vade Secure published the results of its Phishers’ Favorites report for Q2 2019. According to the report, which ranks the 25 most impersonated brands in phishing attacks, Microsoft was by far the top target for the fifth straight quarter. There was also a significant uptick in Facebook phishing, as the social media giant moved up to the third spot on the list as a result of a staggering 176 percent YoY growth in phishing URLs. … More

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Cyberattack Lateral Movement Explained

[Lightly edited transcript of the video above]

Hi there, Mark Nunnikhoven from Trend Micro Research, I want to talk to you about the concept of lateral movement.

And the reason why I want to tackle this today is because I’ve had some conversations in the last few days that have really kind of hit that idea bulb that people don’t truly understand how cybercriminals get away with their crimes in the organization. Specifically how they launch their attacks.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to blame on defenders. This isn’t to blame of the general public. I’m going to go with Hollywood’s to blame a little bit here, because we’re watching movies in Hollywood inevitably…you know the hackers in their dark hat and with no lighting, underground, Lord knows where they find these places to hack from and they are attacking directly through.

You see a bunch of text go across the screen and they penetrate through the first firewall, through the second firewall in into the data. That’s not how it works at all.

That’s ridiculous. It’s absurd.

[00:59]

It makes for interesting cinema, just like the red code/green code in CSI Cyber, but it’s not a reflection of reality and that’s a real challenge. Because a lot of people don’t have the experience of working with cybersecurity, working in cybersecurity, so their only perception is what they see either through media—you know TV, movies, books—or if they happen to run into somebody at in the industry. So there is an overwhelming amount of sort of information or misinformation.

Not even misinformation, just storytelling that tries to make it far more dramatic than it is. The reality is that cybercriminals are out for profit.

We know this time and time again—yes a bunch of nation-state stuff does happen but the vast majority of you are unaffected by it same with there’s

a massive amount of script-kiddie just sort of scanning random people with random tools that are just seeing what they can get away with that and

if you have solid, automated defenses that doesn’t really impact you.

What does impact you is the vast majority of organized cybercriminals who are out to make a profit. Trend Micro had a great  series and continues to have a great series on the Underground, the Digital Underground that shows just how deep these profit motivations go.

This is very much a dark industry. And with that in mind we come back to the concept of lateral movement.

[02:22]

If an attacker breaches into your systems, whether they come in like a fourth of all attacks do via email whether they come in directly through a server compromise, which is about half of all breaches according to the Verizon data breach investigation report or one of the other methods that is commonly used…then they start to move around within your network.

That’s lateral movement.

We talk about north/south traffic with the network, which is basically inside the network to outside of the network, so out to the the internet and back. East/west is within the network itself. Most defenses, traditional defenses worry about that north/south traffic.

Not enough worry about the east/west and it’s breaking down finally. We are getting rid of this hard perimeter. “It’s mine, I defend everything inside” …and realizing that this is actually how cybercriminals work. Once they’re inside they move around. So we need to defend in-depth and have really great monitoring and protection tools within our networks because of this challenge of lateral movement.

[03:23]

Let me give you a little easier to digest analogy. Most of us in a home have a grocery list and maybe once a week—maybe twice–we head to the grocery store and we try to get everything we want off the list and then we come back. That just makes sense.

That’s how we do it. Right? You would never think of going, “Okay. Number one of the list is ketchup. I’m going to drive to the store to get ketchup. I’m going to buy it and I’m going to come back home.

I’m going to look at item number two. I need a loaf of bread. I’m going to drive back to the store. I’m going to buy a loaf of bread and I’m going to come back and we can go to item 3, and I’m going to go and I’m going to come back. I’m going to…” That’s just ridiculous, right? That’s absolutely absurd and cybercrimals agree.

Once they’ve driven to the store. They’re going to buy everything that they need and everything that they see as an opportunity, right? They are really susceptible to those end caps and impulse buys… and then they’re going to leave.

This is how they attack our organizations.

We know that, because of the average time to detect a breach is around 197 days right now and that stat has fluctuated maybe plus or minus 15 days for the last decade.

We also know that it takes almost three…it takes two and a half to three months actually contain a breach once you discover it and the reason for all of this is lateral movement.

Once you’re in as a cybercriminal, once you’ve made headway, once you gained a beachhead or a foothold within that network you’re going to do everything you can to expand it because it’s going to make you the most amount of money.

[04:55]

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below, hit us up on social @TrendMicro or you can reach me directly @marknca.

How are you handling lateral movement? How are you trying to reduce it? How are you looking for visibility across all of your systems?

Let’s continue this conversation because when we talk we all get better and more secure online.

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Chinese cyberhackers ‘blurring line between state power and crime’

Cybersecurity firm FireEye says ‘aggressive’ APT41 group working for Beijing is also hacking video games to make money

A group of state-sponsored hackers in China ran activities for personal gain at the same time as undertaking spying operations for the Chinese government in 14 different countries, the cybersecurity firm FireEye has said.

In a report released on Thursday, the company said the hacking group APT41 was different to other China-based groups tracked by security firms in that it used non-public malware typically reserved for espionage to make money through attacks on video game companies.

Related: Australia joins condemnation of 'huge, audacious' Chinese hacking plot

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Capital One Data Breach: How Impacted Users Can Stay More Secure

Capital One is one of the 10 largest banks based on U.S. deposits. As with many big-name brands, cybercriminals see these companies as an ideal target to carry out large-scale attacks, which has now become a reality for the financial organization. According to CNN, approximately 100 million Capital One users in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada have been affected by a data breach exposing about 140,000 Social Security numbers, 1 million Canadian Social Insurance numbers, and 80,000 bank account numbers, and more.

According to the New York Post, the alleged hacker claimed the data was obtained through a firewall misconfiguration. This misconfiguration allowed command execution with a server that granted access to data in Capital One’s storage space at Amazon. Luckily, Capital One stated that it “immediately fixed the configuration vulnerability.”

This breach serves as a reminder that users and companies alike should do everything in their power to keep personal information protected. If you think you might have been affected by this breach, follow these tips to help you stay secure:

  • Check to see if you’ve been notified by Capital One. The bank will notify everyone who was affected by the breach and offer them free credit monitoring and identity protection services. Be sure to take advantage of the services and check out the website Capital One set up for information on this breach.
  • Review your accounts. Be sure to look over your credit card and banking statements and report any suspicious activity as soon as possible. Capital One will allow you to freeze your card so purchases can no longer be made.
  • Change your credentials. Err on the side of caution and change your passwords for all of your accounts. Taking extra precautions can help you avoid future attacks.
  • Freeze your credit. Freezing your credit will make it impossible for criminals to take out loans or open up new accounts in your name. To do this effectively, you will need to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
  • Consider using identity theft protection. A solution like McAfee Identify Theft Protection will help you to monitor your accounts and alert you of any suspicious activity.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Briton who helped stop 2017 WannaCry virus spared jail over malware charges

  • Marcus Hutchins pleaded guilty to two malware charges
  • 25-year-old ‘incredibly thankful’ to be sentenced to time served

The British computer expert who helped shut down the WannaCry cyberattack on the NHS said he is “incredibly thankful” after being spared jail in the US for creating malware.

Marcus Hutchins was hailed as a hero in May 2017 when he found a “kill switch” that slowed the effects of the WannaCry virus affecting more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

Related: FTSE 250 firms exposed to possible cyber-attacks, report finds

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Hacked forensic firm pays ransom after malware attack

Largest private provider Eurofins hands over undisclosed fee to regain control of systems

Britain’s largest private forensics provider has paid a ransom to hackers after its IT systems were brought to a standstill by a cyber-attack, it has been reported.

Eurofins, which is thought to carry out about half of all private forensic analysis, was targeted in a ransomware attack on 2 June, which the company described at the time as “highly sophisticated”. Three weeks later the company said its operations were “returning to normal”, but did not disclose whether or not a ransom had been paid.

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#Verified or Phishing Victim? 3 Tips to Protect Your Instagram Account

If you’re an avid Instagram user, chances are you’ve come across some accounts with a little blue checkmark next to the username. This little blue tick is Instagram’s indication that the account is verified. While it may seem insignificant at first glance, this badge actually means that Instagram has confirmed that the account is an authentic page of a public figure, celebrity, or global brand. In today’s world of social media influencers, receiving a verified badge is desirable so other users know you’re a significant figure on the platform. However, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the appeal of being Instagram verified as a way to convince users to hand over their credentials.

So, how do cybercriminals carry out this scheme? According to security researcher Luke Leal, this scam was distributed as a phishing page through Instagram. The page resembled a legitimate Instagram submission page, prompting victims to apply for verification. After clicking on the “Apply Now” button, victims were taken to a series of phishing forms with the domain “Instagramforbusiness[.]info.” These forms asked users for their Instagram logins as well as confirmation of their email and password credentials. However, if the victim submitted the form, their Instagram credentials would make their way into the cybercriminal’s email inbox. With this information, the cybercrooks would have unauthorized access to the victim’s social media page. What’s more, since this particular phishing scam targets a user’s associated email login, hackers would have the capability of resetting and verifying ownership of the victim’s account.

Whether you’re in search of an Instagram verification badge or not, it’s important to be mindful of your cybersecurity. And with Social Media Day right around the corner, check out these tips to keep your online profiles protected from phishing and other cyberattacks:

  • Exercise caution when inspecting links. If you examine the link used for this scam (Instagramforbusiness[.]info), you can see that it is not actually affiliated with Instagram.com. Additionally, it doesn’t use the secure HTTPS protocol, indicating that it is a risky link. Always inspect a URL before you click on it. And if you can’t tell whether a link is malicious or not, it’s best to avoid interacting with it altogether.
  • Don’t fall for phony pages. If you or a family member is in search of a verified badge for their Instagram profile, make sure they are familiar with the process. Instagram users should go into their own account settings and click on “Request on verification” if they are looking to become verified. Note that Instagram will not ask for your email or password during this process, but will send you a verification link via email instead.
  • Reset your password. If you suspect that a hacker is attempting to gain control of your account, play it safe by resetting your password.

And, as usual, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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The Guardian view on cybercrime: the law must be enforced | Editorial

Governments and police must take crime on the internet seriously. It is where we all live now

About half of all property crime in the developed world now takes place online. When so much of our lives, and almost all of our money, have been digitised, this is not surprising – but it has some surprising consequences. For one thing, the decline in reported property crimes trumpeted by successive British governments between 2005 and 2015 turns out to have been an illusion. Because banks were not required to report fraud to the police after 2005, they often didn’t. It would have made both banks and police look bad to have all that crime known and nothing done about it. The cost of the resulting ignorance was paid by the rest of government, and by the public, too, deprived of accurate and reliable knowledge. Since then, the total number of property crimes reported has risen from about 6m to 11m a year as the figures have taken computerised crime into account.

The indirect costs to society are very much higher than the hundreds of millions that individuals lose. One example is the proliferation of plagiarism software online, which developed an entire industry in poor, English-speaking countries like Kenya, serving idle or ignorant students in England and North America. The effort required by schools and universities to guard against such fraud has been considerable, and its cost entirely disproportionate to the gains made by the perpetrators.

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Privacy Awareness Week 2019 – Are You In The Dark About Your Online Privacy?

If you haven’t given your online privacy much attention lately then things need to change. In our era of weekly data breaches, the ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ excuse no longer cuts it. In my opinion, ensuring your privacy is protected online is probably more important than protecting your home and car! A sloppy approach to online privacy can have devastating ramifications to your financial health, your career and even your physical wellbeing.

This week is Privacy Awareness Week in Australia – a great reminder to give our online privacy a ‘check-up’ and work out what we can do to ensure the information we share online (and who sees it) is locked down.

What Do We Need to Protect?

When we think about online privacy, we often think about protecting our password and financial data online. But it’s a little more complicated. There are 2 categories of information that we share in our online life that requires protection.

  1. Personally Identifying Information (PII) – this includes our name, birthdate, address and Medicare number
  2. Non-Personally Identifying Information – this includes the information about what we do online. It’s a combination of the websites we visit, what we buy online, our online searches and the pages we like on our social media profiles. Our online activity creates a digital folder about ourselves and many companies just love this data so they can send targeted ads your way. Ever wondered why you receive ads about holiday destinations after a few wishful holiday Google searches?

Without adequate online privacy, all the information about our online activities can be collected and analysed by third parties. In fact, data collected (legally) about you by websites can be very lucrative! Companies, known as data brokers, collect and maintain data on millions on people and charge handsomely for their services!

Why Do I Need To Worry About My Online Privacy?

Just think for a moment about some of the information that is stored about you online…

  • Your PII is stored in the background of probably every online account you have including social media, news and banking
  • Your online banking and superannuation sites contain details of all your accounts and your net worth
  • Your health and taxation records maybe accessible online which may contain sensitive information you would prefer not to be shared
  • If you haven’t disabled location services on your phone, your whereabouts can be tracked by clever parties on a daily basis
  • Your pictures and videos

While some of this information is stored without your control, there are steps you can take to tighten up access.

Now, think about your daily online activity…

  • Anything you order online via your web browser can be recorded
  • Anytime you send an email with sensitive information, there is a risk this will also be shared
  • Anytime you pay on the go using a facility like Apple Pay, your purchase will be tracked
  • Anything you search for, the articles you read, the movie tickets you buy and even your weekly online grocery order can be tracked

If this comes as a shock to you then you’re not alone. Many Aussies have been in the dark about what information is available about them online. But, don’t throw the towel in – there are strategies to tighten up your online privacy.

How To Get Your Online Privacy Under Control

There are a few simple steps you can take to lock down your valuable online information. So, make yourself a nice cuppa and let’s get to work:

  1. Manage Your Passwords

Your online passwords are as important as your house keys. In fact, in many cases, it is the only thing stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that we have saved online. So, if you want to tighten up access to your online banking, your social media platforms and your favourite online shopping sites then you need to think carefully about how you manage your passwords.

Passwords need to be complex and unique with at least 8-10 characters and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. And each of your online accounts should have a separate password which should be changed regularly. Too hard? Consider a Password Manager which creates and manages complex passwords for each of your online accounts – a complete no brainer!! McAfee’s Total Protection software includes a Password Manager which stores, auto-fills and generates unique passwords for all your online accounts. All you need to do is remember one master password! Easy!

And don’t forget, if one of your online accounts is affected by a data breach, then you need to change that password ASAP. If you have a password manager, simply have it generate another password for you.

  1. Use Public Wi-Fi With Caution

If you are serious about your online privacy then you need to use public Wi-Fi sparingly. Unsecured public Wi-Fi is a very risky business. Anything you share could easily find its way into the hands of cybercriminals. So, please avoid sharing any sensitive or personal information while using public Wi-Fi. If you travel regularly or spend the bulk of your time on the road then consider investing in a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your activity which means your login details and other sensitive information is protected. McAfee has a great VPN product called Safe Connect. An excellent insurance policy!

  1. Use 2-Factor Authentication

Adding an additional layer of security to protect yourself when accessing your online accounts is another great way of guarding your online privacy. Turn on two-factor authentication for Google, Dropbox, Facebook and whatever other site offers it. For those new to this option, this means that in addition to your password, you will need to provide another form of identification to ensure you are who you say you are. Most commonly, this is a code sent to your mobile phone or generated by a smart phone app.

  1. Keep Your Software Updated

Software updates and patches are often designed to address a security vulnerability so ALWAYS install them so the bad guys can’t take advantage of security hole in your system. If it all becomes to hard, why not automate the updates?

  1. Invest in Security Software for ALL Your Devices

Installing comprehensive security software on all your devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones adds another layer of protection to your vital online information. Check out McAfee’s Total Protection software that will ensure you and your devices are protected against viruses, malware spyware and ransomware.

  1. Consider a Search Engine that Doesn’t Track Your Every Move Online

If you would prefer that your search engines didn’t collect and store the information you enter then consider an alternative ‘privacy focussed’ search engine. Check out DuckDuckGo that doesn’t profile users or track or sell your information to third parties.

  1. Delete All Cookies

Cookies are another way your online activity can be tracked. While some are harmless and used to simply remember things about you such as your login information and language, others known as  tracking cookies remain permanently constantly gathering information about your behaviour and what you click on. So, let’s get rid of them! Head into your web browser’s Privacy settings and clean them out.

So, let’s get our online privacy under control this Privacy Awareness Week. But don’t forget about your kids and elderly relatives too! Proactively managing one’s online privacy needs to be a priority for everyone. Why not start a conversation at the dinner table? Perhaps give the family a daily privacy related task every day during Privacy Awareness Week? For example:

Monday – Clean up your passwords or set up a Password Manager

Tuesday –  Research a VPN

Wednesday – Set up 2 factor authentication

Thursday – Ensure all your software is up to date and set up auto-updates where possible

Friday – Research privacy focussed search engines and delete all cookies

Over to you mums and dads. Would love to hear how you go.

Alex xx

 

 

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Avoid a Security Endgame: Learn About the Latest “Avengers” Scam

Marvel Studio’s $2.2 billion box-office hit “Avengers: Endgame” has quickly risen to the second-highest grossing film of all time in its first two weekends. Not surprisingly, cybercriminals have wasted no time in capitalizing on the movie’s success by luring victims with free digital downloads of the film. How? By tempting users with security shortcuts so they can watch the film without worrying about spoilers or sold-out movie tickets.

When a victim goes to download the movie from one of the many scam sites popping up around the web, the streaming appears to begin automatically. What the user doesn’t know is that the footage being streamed is just from the movie’s trailer. Soon after, a message pops up stating that the user needs to create an account to continue with the download. The “free” account prompts the user to create a username and password in advance, which could potentially be useful for cybercriminals due to the common practice of password reuse. Once a victim creates an account, they are asked for billing information and credit card details in order to “verify location” and make sure the service is “licensed to distribute” the movie in the victim’s region. These crooks are then able to scrape the victim’s personal and financial data, potentially leading to online account hacks, stolen funds, identity theft, and more.

Luckily, Marvel fans can protect their online data to avoid a cybersecurity endgame by using the following tips:

  • Look out for potential scam activity. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Be wary of websites promising free movie downloads, especially for movies that are still in theaters.
  • Shield your financial data. Be suspicious of “free downloads” that still require you to fill out billing information. If an unknown website asks for your credit card information or your bank account data, it’s best to avoid the site altogether.
  • Make sure your credentials are unique. With this scam, threat actors could use the login credentials provided by the victim to access their other accounts if they didn’t have a unique login. Avoiding username and password reuse makes it a lot harder for cybercriminals to hack into your other online accounts if they gain access to one.
  • Assemble a team of comprehensive security tools. Using a tool like McAfee WebAdvisor can help you avoid dangerous websites and links and will warn you in the event that you do accidentally click on something malicious.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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German police arrest three men as they shut dark web marketplace

Arrests in Germany, Brazil and US relate to sale of drugs, stolen data and malicious software

German police have shut down one of the world’s largest illegal online markets in the so-called dark web and arrested the three men allegedly running it, prosecutors said on Friday.

The “Wall Street Market” (WSM) site enabled trade in cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines as well as stolen data, fake documents and malicious software.

Related: Dark web blamed for rise in drugs sent by post from Netherlands

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Magecart Group 12 also targets Opencart-based online stores

Magecart made the headlines again, Magecart Group 12 is conducting a large-scale operation that targets OpenCart online stores.

According to security experts at RiskIQ, the Magecart Group 12 is behind a large-scale operation against OpenCart online stores. The attackers used stealth tactics to remain under the radar and siphon payment data from compromised e-commerce sites.

Security firms have monitored the activities of a dozen Magecart groups at least since 2015. The gangs use to implant skimming script into compromised online stores in order to steal payment card data on, but they are quite different from each other. 

According to a joint report published by RiskIQ and FlashPoint in March, some groups are more advanced than others. The list of victims of Magecart groups is long and includes several major platforms such as British AirwaysNeweggTicketmaster, and Feedify​​

OpenCart is in the most popular e-commerce platforms worldwide that is currently used by thousands of online stores of any size. OpenCart one of the top three e-commerce CMS, after Shopify and Magento, it is normal that crooks attempt to target it too.

Previous attacks carried out by the Magecart Group 12 hit e-commerce services used by thousands of online stores that ran versions of  Magento, OpenCart, and OSCommerce. The attacks against OpenCart-based stores is similar to the Magento ones.

“We’ll also break down a large-scale Magecart Group 12 campaign uncovered by RiskIQ researchers abusing the OpenCart platform, which is run by thousands of e-commerce sites.” reads the analysis published by RiskIQ. “Group 12 breached OpenCart sites to inject their skimmer similar to the Magento attacks, starting with the insertion of a very well-picked domain name: batbing[.]com.”

In the latest wave of attacks, Magecart group 12 injected their skimmer into OpenCart websites only after checking if the visitor accessed a checkout page. Technically they added the following pre-filter JavaScript code:

Magecart Group 12 OpenCart

Attackers used a domain name that attempts to impersonate the Bing.com search engine script.

“One other notable element of this attack is the impersonation attempt for the Bing.com search engine script: “

https://batbing[.]com/js/bat.min.js

The normal Bing URL looks very similar:

https://bat[.]bing[.]com/bat.js

RiskIQ with the support of AbuseCH and the Shadowserver Foundation took offline the domain used by the hackers.

Experts found references to the skimmer script in a forum post on the OpenCart forum.

RiskIQ experts believe that new types of web skimming attacks will be observed in the future, hackers will go beyond payment data attempting to steal login credentials and other sensitive information.

“It’s likely that new breeds of these web skimming attacks will emerge in the future, whether by new or existing Magecart groups. They’re currently focusing on payment data, but we’re already seeing moves to skim login credentials and other sensitive information.” concludes RiskIQ. “This widens the scope of potential Magecart victims far beyond e-commerce alone.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Magecart Group 12, OpenCart)

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Cybercriminals continue to target intellectual property, putting brand reputation at risk

Despite improvements in combating cybercrime and threats, IT security professionals are still struggling to fully secure their organization and protect against breaches with 61 percent claiming to have experienced a data breach at their current employer, according to McAfee. Adding to this challenge, data breaches are becoming more serious as cybercriminals continue to target intellectual property putting the reputation of the company brand at risk and increasing financial liability. The McAfee’s Grand Theft Data II … More

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It’s World Password Day – the Perfect Excuse to give your Passwords an Overhaul!

How much of your personal data is stored online? Well, if you are anything like the ‘average Jo’ – the answer is a lot! In 2019, the vast majority of us bank and shop online, have official documentation stored online, have all sorts of personal information stored in our emails and let’s not forget about our photos and videos.

And the scary thing – the only thing that is stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that is saved online is our passwords.

Today is World Password Day – a perfect opportunity to give our password strategy a health check.  Because if we are serious about protecting our vital data that is stored online then we need to get SUPER serious about managing our passwords!

So, let’s give your passwords an overhaul. Why not schedule some time in your calendar to ensure your passwords are in the best shape? Here are my top tips on what you can do today to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your private online data.

How To Give Your Passwords A Health Check:

1. Check To See Whether Your Passwords Have Been Exposed

The first step is to see whether your passwords have been compromised in a data breach. Check out  www.haveibeenpwned.com.au to see whether cybercriminals have already discovered your passwords. If so, then they need to be changed wherever they are used ASAP.

2. Commit to Not Using Common Passwords

Using common passwords such as ‘password’, ‘123456’ or ‘qwerty’ is quite frankly, a waste of time. It would take cybercriminals a matter of seconds to unlock your online banking data. Also avoid using simple personal details within your passwords such as your birthday, name or kids and pet names as a quick scan of your social media accounts would allow cybercriminals to find this in just seconds. Always make your passwords random and obscure. Why not consider a nonsensical sentence?

3. Add Numbers and Symbols to Your Passwords

When you are setting up a new online account, many organisations will require you to add a number or symbol to your proposed password to give it additional ‘password strength’. Passwords that include a variety of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols are far harder to crack so get creative and layer up your passwords.

4. Ensure Every Password Is Unique

Many people use the same password across all of their online accounts. And while this makes life easier, it increases your risk of your vital online data being compromised big time. Remember, if a hacker discovers just one of your passwords – and it’s the only one you use – all of your online personal information is at risk! Therefore, it is crucial to ensure all your passwords are different! I know, it sounds like a lot of work and brain power!

5. Simplify Your Life with a Password Manager

If the idea of creating individual complex passwords for each of your online accounts – oh, and changing them every 2 months, is giving you palpitations, then I have a solution – a password manager!

McAfee’s Total Protection includes Password Manager, which stores, auto-fills and even generates unique passwords. Creating and remembering (!) complex password for each online account is taken care off. All you need to do is remember one master password in order to access the rest of the passwords! And if there is a data breach, it’s super easy to quickly change a password too.

6. Set up Two-Factor Authentication Where Possible

If you have the option to enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication with any of your online accounts, then do it!! In simple terms, this will mean that you need to provide more than one way of identifying yourself before gaining access to your account. Often it is your password plus a code sent to your smartphone or even your fingerprint. It’s an absolute no-brainer as it adds another layer of security making it harder to cybercriminals to access your vital online data.

Now, if you are thinking about skipping out of your password overhaul, then please think again! Passwords are the first line of defence to protect your vital online data from cybercriminals. So, put the kettle on and make today the day!

Till next time!

Alex xx

 

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Crooks exploit Oracle WebLogic flaw to deliver Sodinokibi Ransomware

Threat actors are exploiting a recently patched critical Oracle WebLogic Server vulnerability to deliver the Sodinokibi ransomware to organizations.

Threat actors are delivering a new piece of malware, tracked as
Sodinokibi, by exploiting a recently patched Oracle WebLogic Server vulnerability.

Oracle WebLogic Server is a Java EE application server currently developed by Oracle Corporation, it is used by numerous applications and web enterprise portals based on Java technology. The flaw initially received the identifier CNVD-C-2019-48814.

An attacker could exploit the vulnerability to remotely execute commands without authorization by sending a specially crafted HTTP request.

On April 26, Oracle addressed the flaw with the release of an out-of-band update.

The threat was detected and analyzed by several firms (i.e. South Korean EST Security, Cisco’s Talos), independent researchers, intelligence group.

“Oracle first patched the issue on April 26, outside of their normal patch cycle, and assigned it CVE-2019-2725. This vulnerability is easy for attackers to exploit, as anyone with HTTP access to the WebLogic server could carry out an attack. Because of this, the bug has a CVSS score of 9.8/10.” reads the analysis published by Cisco Talos.” Attackers have been making use of this exploit in the wild since at least April 17. “

Sodinokibi ransomware

Crooks used PowerShell commands to download and execute malicious payloads, they demanded a ransom that ranges from $1,500 worth of BitCoin up to $2,500. The ransom doubles if the victims do not pay it within a specified number of days.

Talos started seeing the first stages of the Sodinokibi attacks — the attackers first looked for exploitable WebLogic servers —

Since April 25, one day before Oracle released security patches, the experts started observing Sodinokibi ranomware infections.

Talos also noted that threat actors were exploiting the flaw to deliver the popular Gandcrab ransomware.

“We find it strange the attackers would choose to distribute additional, different ransomware on the same target. Sodinokibi being a new flavor of ransomware, perhaps the attackers felt their earlier attempts had been unsuccessful and were still looking to cash in by distributing Gandcrab,” continues Talos researchers.

Experts discovered that the CVE-2019-2725 has been also exploited to deliver cryptocurrency miners and other types of malware. Researchers believe it has also likely been exploited in targeted attacks.

“Due to the ubiquity of Oracle WebLogic servers and the ease of exploitation of this vulnerability, Talos expects widespread attacks involving CVE-2019-2725 ” concludes Talos.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – sodinokibiransomware, Weblogic)

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Saint Ambrose Catholic Parish – Crooks stole $1.75M in BEC Attack

Crooks have stolen $1.75 million in a church BEC (Business Email Compromise) attack, the victim is the Saint Ambrose Catholic Parish.

Cybercriminals have stolen $1.75 million in a BEC (Business Email Compromise) attack against the Saint Ambrose Catholic Parish.

Saint Ambrose is the second largest church in the Diocese of Cleveland and the largest church in Brunswick, Ohio.

The Saint Ambrose Catholic Parish discovered the BEC attack on April 17 when was making payments related to a Vision 2020 project that were never received by a contractor (Marous Brothers Construction).

According to the investigation conducted by the FBI and Brunswick police, hackers broke into the parish’s email system, likely via a phishing attack. Attackers were able to trick the personnel into believing that the contractor had changed their bank, and asked them to transfer the funds to a new bank account under their control.

BEC

In a letter to the parish, Fr. Bob Stec explained he was contacted by the contractor that informed him that he did receive the payments for the past two months.

“On Wednesday, Marous Brothers called inquiring as to why we had not paid our monthly payment on the project for the past two months totaling approximately $1,750,000.” reads a letter sent to parish by Pastor Father Bob Stec.

“This was shocking news to us, as we have been very prompt on our payments every month and have received all the appropriate confirmations from the bank that the wire transfers of money to Marous were executed/confirmed.”

According to Stec, crooks accessed two St. Ambrose employees’ email accounts. Attackers only compromised the email system, they did not access to the parish database that is stored in a secure cloud-based system.

“We are working closely with the Diocese and its insurance program to file a claim in the hopes that Marous Brothers Construction can receive their payment quickly and we can bring this important project for our parish to a positive completion,” Stec said in the letter.

The parish submitted an insurance claim in the attempt of recovering the stolen money.

“At the same time, we brought in information technology consultants to review the security and stability of our system, change all passwords, and verify the integrity of our databases and other pertinent information.” Stec added. “They have determined the breach was limited to only two email accounts.”

BEC attacks represent a serious threat for businesses, according to the recently released 2018 Internet Crime Report by FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), BEC scams reached $1,2 billion in profits.

“In 2018, the IC3 received 20,373 BEC/E-mail Account Compromise (EAC) complaints with adjusted losses of over $1.2 billion” reads the report.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – BEC, hacking)

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ElectrumDoSMiner botnet reached 152,000 hosts

Researchers at Malwarebytes are monitoring the evolution of the ElectrumDoSMiner DDoS botnet that reached 152,000 infected hosts.

MalwareBytes researchers are closely monitoring attacks against users of the popular Electrum Bitcoin wallet, in particular, the evolution of the Electrum DDoS botnet.

In mid-April, experts at MalwareBytes published a report warning of cyber attacks against users of the popular Electrum Bitcoin wallet. According to the experts, crooks already netted over 771 Bitcoins, an amount equivalent to approximately $4 million USD at current exchange rates.

Since that analysis, cyber criminals have stolen other funds reaching USD $4.6 million, but the most concerning aspect of the story is that and the botnet they used continues to grow. On April 24, the botnet was composed of less than 100,000 bots, but the next day the number peaked at 152,000.

“Since our last blog, the amount of stolen funds has increased to USD $4.6 million, and the botnet that is flooding the Electrum infrastructure is rapidly growing.” reads the analysis published by MalwareBytes. “Case in point, on April 24, the number of infected machines in the botnet was just below 100,000 and the next day it reached its highest at 152,000, according to this online tracker. Since then, it has gone up and down and plateaued at around the 100,000 mark.”

The experts already monitored two malware campaigns respectively leveraging the RIG exploit kit and the Smoke Loader to deliver the ElectrumDoSMiner.

MalwareBytes also detected a previously undocumented tracked as Trojan.BeamWinHTTP that was used by crooks to deliver the ElectrumDoSMiner (transactionservices.exe).

The experts believe that there are many more infection vectors beyond the above loaders they discovered.

Most of the ElectrumDoSMiner infections were observed in Asia Pacific region (APAC), Brazil and Peru.

ElectrumDoSMiner

“The number of victims that are part of this botnet is constantly changing. We believe as some machines get cleaned up, new ones are getting infected and joining the others to perform DoS attacks.” continues the report. “Malwarebytes detects and removes ElectrumDoSMiner infections on more than 2,000 endpoints daily.”

Further technical details, including Indicators of Compromise (IoCs), are reported in the analysis published by MalwareBytes.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – ElectrumDoSMiner, botnet)

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New Emotet variant uses connected devices as proxy C2 servers

Researchers at Trend Micro have uncovered a malware campaign distributing a new Emotet Trojan variant that compromises devices and uses them as Proxy C2 servers.

Trend Micro discovered a new variant of the Emotet Trojan that is able to infect devices and use them as proxy command-and-control servers. The new variant also employs random URI directory paths to evade network-based detection rules.

“Recently, an analysis of Emotet traffic has revealed that new samples use a different POST-infection traffic than previous versions. ” reads the analysis published by Trend Micro. “It is also attempting to use compromised connected devices as proxy command and control (C&C) servers that redirect to the real Emotet C&Cs. These changes may seem trivial at first, but the added complexity in command and control traffic is an attempt by Emotet authors to evade detection. “

The experts also noticed that threat actors behind the latest Emotet campaign are actively attempting to compromise IoT devices, including routers, IP cameras, webcams, and recruit them in a first layer of the C2 infrastructure.

The compromised devices could be used by threat actors for other malicious purposes.

Emotet is delivered via spam campaigns, one of the attacks monitored in early April leveraged the Powload trojan downloader to drop the threat. The spam emails use malicious ZIP file that can be opened with the 4-digit password included in the body of the email. The ZIP archive contains variants of Powload that uses Powershell to download an executable the final Emotet payload.

Emotet 1

Since March 15, experts monitored Emotet samples using new POST-infection traffic and discovered they were also using randomly generated URI directory paths in its POST requests to evade network-based detection

The new Emotet version sends the stolen info within the HTTP POST message body, instead of using the Cookie header. Like previous versions, it encrypts data with an RSA key and AES, and encoded it in Base 64.

Emotet traffic

“The change in POST-infection traffic and the use of these connected devices show that Emotet is still a constantly evolving and resilient threat.” concludes Trend Micro.

“The malware authors are fine-tuning evasion techniques and trying to adapt to security solutions. If left unchecked and undetected, this threat may lead to a substantial loss of money and data for businesses.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – cybercrime, malware)

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Attackers breached Docker Hub, grabbed keys and tokens

Docker, the company behing the popular virtualization tool bearing the same name, has announced late on Friday that it has suffered a security breach. There was no official public announcement. Instead, the company sent an alert to potentially affected customers and urged them to change their passwords check their security logs. What happened? “On Thursday, April 25th, 2019, we discovered unauthorized access to a single Hub database storing a subset of non-financial user data,” the … More

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Most SMBs would pay a ransom in order to recover stolen data

More than half (55 percent) of executives at SMBs said they would pay hackers in order to recover their stolen data in ransomware attacks, according to the second quarterly AppRiver Cyberthreat Index for Business Survey. That number jumps to 74 percent among larger SMBs that employ 150-250 employees, with nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) going as far as saying they “definitely would pay ransom at almost any price” to prevent their data from being … More

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AESDDoS bot exploits CVE-2019-3396 flaw to hit Atlassian Confluence Server

A new variant of the AESDDoS bot is exploiting a recent vulnerability in the Atlassian collaborative software Confluence.

Security experts at Trend Micro have spotted a new variant of AESDDoS botnet that is exploiting a recently discovered vulnerability in the Atlassian collaborative software Confluence.

The flaw exploited in the attacks, tracked as CVE-2019-3396, is a server-side template injection vulnerability that resides in the Widget Connector macro in Confluence Server.

Threat actors leverage the vulnerability to install denial of service (DDoS) malware and crypto-currency miners, and to remotely execute code.

“In our analysis, we saw that an attacker was able to exploit CVE-2019-3396 to infect machines with the AESDDoS botnet malware.” reads the analysis published by Trend Micro. “A shell command was remotely executed to download and execute a malicious shell script (Trojan.SH.LODEX.J), which in turn downloaded another shell script (Trojan.SH.DOGOLOAD.J) that finally installed the AESDDoS botnet malware on the affected system.”

The AESDDoS bot involved in the recent attacks has the ability to launch several types of DDoS attacks, including SYN, LSYN, UDP, UDPS, and TCP flood.

The malware also connects to 23[.]224[.]59[.]34:48080 to send and receive remote shell commands from the attacker.

Once the malware has infected a system, it can gather system information, including model ID and CPU description, speed, family, model, and type.

The AESDDoS bot uses the AES algorithm to encrypt gathered data and data received from the C2 server.

Trend Micro researchers also discovered that the latest variant of the AESDDoS bot can modify files i.e., /etc/rc.local and /etc/rc.d/rc.local, as an autostart technique by appending the {malware path}/{malware file name} reboot command.

Atlassian has already addressed the vulnerability in the Confluence software with the release of the version 6.15.1.

“Since the successful exploitation of CVE-2019-3396 in Atlassian Confluence Server can put resources at risk, enterprises should be able to identify vulnerabilities, make use of the latest threat intelligence against malware or exploits, and detect modifications to the application’s design and the underlying infrastructure that hosts it,” Trend Micro concludes.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – AESDDoS bot, DDoS)

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Digital Parenting: ‘Eat Your Veggies, Brush Your Teeth, Strengthen Your Passwords’

strong password

strong passwordAs adults, we know the importance of strong passwords, and we’ve likely preached the message to our kids. But let’s rewind for a minute. Do our kids understand why strong passwords are important and why it needs to become a habit much like personal health and hygiene?

If we want the habit to stick, the reason why can’t be simply because we told them so. We’ve got to make it personal and logical.

Think about the habits you’ve already successfully instilled and the reasoning you’ve attached to them.

Brush your teeth to prevent disease and so they don’t fall out.
Eat a balanced diet so you have fuel for the day and to protect yourself from illness and disease.
Get enough sleep to restore your body and keep your mind sharp for learning.
Bathe and groom to wash away germs (and to keep people from falling over when you walk by). 

The same reasoning applies to online hygiene: We change our passwords (about every three months) to stay as safe as possible online and protect what matters. When talking to kids, the things that matter include our home address, our school name, our personal information (such as a parent’s credit card information, our social security number, or other account access).

Kids Targeted

We falsely believe that an adult’s information is more valuable than a child’s. On the contrary, given a choice, 10 out of 10 hackers would mine a child’s information over an adult’s because it’s unblemished. Determined identity thieves will use a child’s Social Security number to apply for government benefits, open bank, and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service or rent an apartment. Also, once a child’s information is hacked, a thief can usually get to a parent’s information.

How to Stay Safe

It’s a tall task to prevent some of the massive data breaches in the news that target kids’ information. However, what is in our control, the ability to practice and teach healthy password habits in our home.

Tips for Families

strong passwordShake it up. According to McAfee Chief Consumer Security Evangelist Gary Davis, to bulletproof your passwords, make sure they are at least 12 characters long and include numbers, symbols, and upper and lowercase letters. Consider substituting numbers and symbols for letters, such as zero for “O” or @ for “A”.

Encourage kids to get creative and create passwords or phrases that mean something to them. For instance, advises Gary, “If you love crime novels you might pick the phrase: ILoveBooksOnCrime
Then you would substitute some letters for numbers and characters, and put a portion in all caps to make it even stronger, such as 1L0VEBook$oNcRIM3!”

Three random words. Password wisdom has morphed over the years as we learn more and more about hacking practices. According to the National Cyber Security Centre, another way to create a strong password is by using three random words (not birthdates, addresses, or sports numbers) that mean something to you. For instance: ‘lovepuppypaws’ or ‘drakegagacardib’ or ‘eatsleeprepeat’ or ‘tacospizzanutella’.

More than one password. Creating a new password for each account will head off cybercriminals if any of your other passwords are cracked. Consider a password manager to help you keep track of your passwords.

Change product default passwords immediately. If you purchase products for kids such as internet-connected gaming devices, routers, or speakers, make sure to change the default passwords to something unique, since hackers often know the manufacturer’s default settings.

When shopping online, don’t save info. Teach kids that when shopping on their favorite retail or gaming sites, not to save credit card information. Saving personal information to different accounts may speed up the checkout process. However, it also compromises data.

Employ extra protection. Comprehensive security software can protect you from several threats such as viruses, identity theft, privacy breaches, and malware designed to grab your data. Security software can cover your whole family as well as multiple devices.

Web Advisor. Keep your software up-to-date with a free web advisor that helps protect you from accidentally typing passwords into phishing sites.

strong password

Use unique passwords and MFA. This is also called “layering up.” 1) Use unique passwords for each of your accounts. By using different passwords, you avoid having all of your accounts become vulnerable if you are hacked (think domino effect). 2) MFA is Multi-Factor Authentication (also called two-step verification or authentication ). MFA confirms a user’s identity only after presenting two or more pieces of evidence. Though not 100% secure, this practice adds a layer of security to an account.

Keep it private. Kids love to show one another loyalty by sharing passwords and giving one another access to their social network accounts. DO NOT encourage this behavior. It’s reckless and could carry some serious privacy consequences. (Of course, sharing with parents, is recommended).

Credential Cracking

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), the reported number of consumer records exposed containing sensitive personally identifiable information jumped 126 percent in 2018. The report explicitly stated password cracking as an issue: “The exploitation of usernames and passwords by nefarious actors continues to be a ripe target due to the increase in credential cracking activities – not to mention the amount of data that can be gleaned by accessing accounts that reuse the same credentials.”

May 2 is World Password Day and the perfect time to consider going over these password basics with your family.

The post Digital Parenting: ‘Eat Your Veggies, Brush Your Teeth, Strengthen Your Passwords’ appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Special-Purpose Vehicle Maker Aebi Schmidt Hit by Malware

The special-purpose vehicle maker Aebi Schmidt was hit by a malware attack that disrupted some of its operations.

The Aebi Schmidt Group is a manufacturer of product systems and services for the management, cleaning and clearance of traffic areas as well as for the maintenance of green areas in demanding terrain.

Aebi Schmidt focuses on manufacturing agricultural, municipal and other special-purpose vehicles, including snow blowers, street cleaners, and other machinery used in airports.

On Thursday Aebi Schmidt announced that its systems had been hit by a malware-based cyberattack. The incident caused the disruption of some of its operations, such as email management.

The malware only infected Windows systems, in response to the incident the company temporarily switched off these systems.

“The IT system failure is due to an attempt by third parties to infiltrate malware into our systems. More and more companies worldwide are being affected by such attacks.” reads a note published by the company on its website.

Aebi Schmidt

The company notified the incident to customers and business partners, it asked them to contact it via phone until its email systems are restored.

Fortunately, the cyber attack has not impacted production systems, order processing, US-based M-B Companies, or its telematics platform.

Windows systems are currently being “rebooted step by step,” but the process could be “time consuming.”

Aebi Schmidt did not share technical details of the cyber attack, but according to TechCrunch, the company was hit by a ransomware.

“Aebi Schmidt, a European manufacturing giant with operations in the U.S., has been hit by a ransomware attack, TechCrunch has learned. ” reads the post published by TechCrunch. “Schiess [spokesperson Thomas Schiess  ] would not comment on claims of ransomware specifically, but the source said staff were told during an all-hands meeting Wednesday that the incident was a “ransomware attack.” “

Recently another major European company was hit by ransomware, the aluminum giant Norsk Hydro suffered an extensive cyber attack that impacted operations in several of the company’s business areas across Europe and the U.S. The company estimated more than $40 million losses in the first week following the ransomware attack that disrupted its operations.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Aebi Schmidt, ransomware)

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Cybercriminals are becoming more methodical and adaptive

Cybercriminals are deviating towards a more focused approach against targets by using better obfuscation techniques and improved social engineering skills as organizations improve in areas such as time to detection and response to threats, according to Trustwave. The 2019 Trustwave Global Security Report is based on the analysis of billions of logged security and compromise events worldwide, hundreds of hands-on data breach and forensic investigations, manual penetration tests, network vulnerability scans and internal research. Asia … More

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Another European manufacturer crippled by ransomware

Aebi Schmidt, a Switzerland-based manufacturer and provider of municipal and agriculture machinery, has apparently been hit by ransomware. What happened? “Due to an IT system failure, the Aebi Schmidt Group can temporarily neither receive nor send emails,” the company announced on Thursday. “The IT system failure is due to an attempt by third parties to infiltrate malware into our systems. More and more companies worldwide are being affected by such attacks.” At the moment, only … More

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Stuart City is the new victim of the Ryuk Ransomware

Another city fell victim of a malware attack, systems at the city of Stuart, Fla., were infected by the Ryuk ransomware on April 13, 2018.

Law enforcement is investigating a ransomware attack that hit the City of Stuart on April 13, 2018. The Ryuk malware infected several servers and forced them offline.

“City officials on Wednesday confirmed a computer virus that infected servers over the weekend was the result of a ransomware attack.” reported the website TCPalm.

“The virus detected Saturday froze up the city’s servers and they are still offline, said Stuart City manager David Dyess.”

According to officials, the ransomware attack targeting the city of Stuart started with a phishing email, the infection was discovered by an IT employee who was setting up a new server.

City manager David Dyess confirmed that the city systems were infected with a strain of the Ryuk ransomware, but he did not disclose the Bitcoin ransom demanded by crooks.

“They discovered we had two things going on: We had what’s called a trickbot, which is basically a malware type of regular virus which can lead to other more serious issues,” Dyess said. “We also had the Ryuk virus that is an encryptor virus, where it encrypts your files and specifically likes to target your servers.”

Stuart city

At the time of writing, Dyess confirmed that experts are investigating to determine the way the attackers exploited to infect the systems.

IT staff at Stuart city has restored servers, payroll, utilities, and budgeting, only city employees still don’t have access to their email accounts.

Stuart’s police and fire departments are still offline, Dyess believe that overall services should be fully restored within the next week.

Early March, another city was hit by the same ransomware, computers of Jackson County, Georgia, were infected with Ryuk that paralyzed the government activity until officials decided to pay a $400,000 ransom to decrypt the files.

Unlike the Jackson County, Stuart City refused to pay the ransom.

“We are not negotiating with them. We are in the process of trying to rebuild our systems,” Dyess said. “We also began scanning every server in the city and every (personal computer) and every laptop in every department to eliminate any viruses on those outer machines.”

Dyess confirmed that the impact was limited thanks to the availability of city’s computer backup system.

“If we wouldn’t have had these viable backups, we would probably be in a situation where we had to move into negotiations,” he said. “But with those backups in place, why would we negotiate?”

The Ryuk ransomware appears connected to Hermes malware that was associated with the notorious Lazarus APT group.

The same ransomware was recently used in an attack that affected the newspaper distribution for large major newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.

Further investigation on the malware allowed the experts from security firms FireEye and CrowdStriketo discover that threat actors behind the 
Ryuk ransomware are working with another cybercrime gang to gain access to target networks. They are collaborating with threat actors behind TrickBot, a malware that once infected a system creates a reverse shell back to the attackers allowing them to break into the network.

Experts at Crowdstrike believe the Ryuk ransomware is operated by a crime gang they tracked as GRIM SPIDER, in particular by its Russian based cell dubbed WIZARD SPIDER that is behind TrickBot.

Experts pointed out that Hermes was available for sale into the online underground community, attackers could have purchased it to create their own version of Ryuk.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Ryuk ransomware, Stuart city)

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Which employees receive the most highly targeted email-borne threats?

Workers in R&D/Engineering are the most heavily targeted group of employees within organizations, a new Proofpoint report says, and lower-level employees are at a higher risk of email-borne cyber threats than higher-level management roles and executives. Who is being attacked? Proofpoint has gathered and analyzed a three-months worth (October-December 2018) of email attacks on Fortune Global 500 companies and has discovered that people at the bottom of the corporate ladder were more at risk of … More

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Latest numbers show why BEC/EAC scams are here to stay

Extortion has become the second most often reported type of cybercrime, but BEC/EAC scams still reign supreme when it comes to monetary loss (or criminals’ earnings), the latest IC3 Internet Crime Report has revealed. BEC/AEC scams are the most lucrative In 2017, FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that the BEC/EAC complaints they dealt with (15,609) came with an approximate $676 million loss. In 2018, the BEC/EAC complaints were 20,373, but the losses reached … More

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PDF: The vehicle of choice for malware and fraud

There has been a substantial increase of fraudulent PDF files, according to a report by SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers. This fraud campaign takes advantage of recipients’ trust in PDF files as a “safe” file format that is widely used and relied upon for business operations. “Increasingly, email, Office documents and now PDFs are the vehicle of choice for malware and fraud in the cyber landscape,” said SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner. “In all … More

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Marcus Hutchins pleads guilty to two counts of banking malware creation

British malware researcher Marcus Hutchins has pleaded guilty to developing and sharing the banking malware between July 2014 and July 2015.

The popular British cybersecurity expert Marcus Hutchins has pleaded guilty to developing and sharing the Kronos banking malware
between July 2014 and July 2015.

Marcus Hutchins, also known as MalwareTech, made the headlines after discovering the “kill switch” that halted the outbreak of the WannaCry ransomware. In August 2017, he was arrested in Las Vegas after attending the Def Con hacking conference and was detained by the FBI in the state of Nevada.

In August 2017, Marcus Hutchins pleaded not guilty to charges of creating and selling malware at a hearing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The court decided to relax the expert bail terms, allowing him to access the Internet and continues his ordinary working activities. The only restriction on Hutchins is that the expert cannot visit the Wannacry server domain.

The decision is unusual because computer crime suspects are not allowed to stay online.

The court allowed him to live in Los Angeles, where the company that hired him is located, but he was obliged to surrender his passport and he must wear a tracking device until his trial in October.

On Friday, Hutchins accepted a plea deal and admitted two charges of malware development.

“I’ve pleaded guilty to two charges related to writing malware in the years prior to my career in security,” reads a statement published by the expert.

“I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes. Having grown up, I’ve since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks.”

Marcus Hutchins would face with a maximum penalty of five years in prison a $250,000 fine and a year of probation.

According to the Federal law enforcement, the researchers told an unnamed associate over a recorded telephone line: “I used to write malware, they picked me up on some old shit,” “I wrote code for a guy a while back who then incorporated it into a banking malware.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Marcus Hutchins, cybercrime)

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Marcus Hutchins: UK ransomware ‘hero’ pleads guilty to US hacking charges

Hutchins says he regrets his actions and will continue ‘keeping people safe from malware attacks’

A British computer security researcher once hailed as a “hero” for helping stem a ransomware outbreak and later accused of creating malware to attack the banking system said on Friday he had pleaded guilty to US criminal charges.

Marcus Hutchins, whose arrest in 2017 stunned the computer security community, acknowledged in a statement pleading guilty to criminal charges linked to his activity in 2014 and 2015.

Related: UK hacker jailed for six years for blackmailing pornography site users

Continue reading...

Operator of Codeshop Cybercrime Marketplace Sentenced to 90 months in prison

Djevair Ametovski was sentenced to 90 months in prison for operating an international cybercrime marketplace named Codeshop.

Macedonian national Djevair Ametovski (32) was sentenced to 90 months in prison by US DoJ authorities for operating an international cybercrime marketplace named Codeshop.

Codeshop.su was a website that specialized in selling stolen payment card data. Ametovski acquired payment card data from hackers who had stolen it from financial institutions and individuals.

According to the investigators, the man commercialized data of 181,000 payment cards between 2010 and 2014.

CodeShop carding

Ametovski (known online as Codeshop, Sindromx, xhevo, and Sindrom) was arrested by Slovenian authorities in January 2014, at the time he was charged with aggravated identity theft, access device fraud conspiracy, and wire fraud conspiracy. The Macedonian citizen was extradited to the United States in May 2016.

The man pleaded guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, he was also ordered to forfeit $250,000 and pay restitution that will be determined later.

Codeshop customers were able to buy stolen card data searching for specific types of data based on criteria such as country, bank, and bank identification number.

“The stolen data could then be used to make online purchases and to encode plastic cards to withdraw cash at ATMs.” reads the press release the Justice Department.      

“Ametovski used a network of online money exchangers and anonymous digital currencies, including Bitcoin, to reap revenues from the Codeshop website and to conceal all participants’ identities, including his own.  Over the course of the scheme, Ametovski obtained and sold stolen credit and debit card data for more than 1.3 million cards,” said the Justice Department.      

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Codeshop, carding)

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Ransomware attack knocks Weather Channel off the Air

A ransomware attack knocked the Weather Channel off the air for at least 90 minutes Thursday morning, federal law enforcement are investigating the incident.A ranomware attack knocked the Weather Channel off the air for at least 90 minutes Thursday morning, federal law enforcement are investigating the incident.

A cyber attack hit the Weather Channel and forced it off the air for at least 90 minutes.

The broadcaster confirmed via Twitter that the incident is the result of a cyber attack, it claims that the problems were caused by “a malicious software attack on the network.”

Details are scant at the moment and a tweet from the station does not lift the haze, informing only that it was the victim of “a malicious software attack on the network.”

This morning the broadcaster transmitted a taped programming “Heavy Rescue” instead of the “AMHQ” live show.

The live show started more than 90 minutes later and the anchors informing viewers of the cyber attack. IT staff has restored the normal operations using the backups.

Weather Channel ransomware

Federal law enforcement has immediately started an investigation on the case, at the time The Weather Channel did not disclose technical details about the attack.

According to 11 Alive News, the attack was caused by ransomware, a circumstance confirmed by Feds to The Wall Street Journal. The live show was interrupted due to a ransomware attack, likely an attempt to extort money to from the broadcaster.

Ransomware attacks continue to represent a serious threat for companies and organizations, it is essential to adopt good cyber hygiene using defence software, having up to date applications and implementing an efficient backup policy.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – ransomware, Wheater Channel)




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UK hacker jailed for six years for blackmailing pornography site users

Zain Qaiser targeted millions of computers with ransomware demanding large sums

A hacker who blackmailed users of pornography websites in what investigators say is the UK’s most serious cybercrime case has been jailed for six years and five months.

Zain Qaiser targeted millions of computers with malicious browser-locking software that demanded payment of up to $1,000 (£765) to unfreeze screens, Kingston crown court heard.

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Cybercriminals Feast on Earl Enterprises Customer Data Exposed in Data Breach

Most people don’t think about their credit card information being stolen and sold over the dark web while they’re enjoying a night out at an Italian restaurant. However, many people are experiencing this harsh reality. Earl Enterprises, the parent company of Buca di Beppo, Planet Hollywood, Earl of Sandwich, and Mixology 101 in LA, confirmed that the company was involved in a massive data breach, which exposed the credit card information of 2.15 million customers.

The original discovery was made by cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs, who found the underground hacking forum where the credit card information had been posted for sale. He determined that the data first surfaced on Joker’s Stash, an underground shop that sells large batches of freshly-stolen credit and debit cards on a regular basis. In late February, Joker’s Stash moved a batch of 2.15 million stolen cards onto their system. This breach involved malware remotely installed on the company’s point-of-sale systems, which allowed cybercrooks to steal card details from customers between May 23, 2018, and March 18, 2019. This malicious software was able to capture payment card details including card numbers, expiration dates, and, in some cases, cardholder names. With this information, thieves are able to clone cards and use them as counterfeits to purchase expensive merchandise such as high-value electronics.

It appears that all 67 Buca di Beppo locations in the U.S., a handful of the 31 Earl of Sandwich locations, and the Planet Hollywood locations in Las Vegas, New York, and Orlando were impacted during this breach. Additionally, Tequila Taqueria in Las Vegas, Chicken Guy! in Disney Springs, and Mixology 101 in Los Angeles were also affected by this breach. Earl Enterprises states that online orders were not affected.

While large company data breaches such as this are difficult to avoid, there are a few steps users can take to better protect their personal data from malicious thieves. Check out the following tips:

  • Keep an eye on your bank account. One of the simplest ways to determine whether someone is fraudulently using your credit card information is to monitor your bank statements. If you see any charges that you did not make, report it to the authorities immediately.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you know you’ve made purchases at an Earl Enterprises establishment in the last ten months, use this tool to check if you could have been potentially affected.
  • Place a fraud alert. If you suspect that your data might have been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit. This not only ensures that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny, but also allows you to have extra copies of your credit report so you can check for suspicious activity.
  • Freeze your credit. Freezing your credit will make it impossible for criminals to take out loans or open up new accounts in your name. To do this effectively, you will need to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
  • Consider using identity theft protection. A solution like McAfee Identify Theft Protection will help you to monitor your accounts and alert you of any suspicious activity.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Social Media: Where Cybercrime Lurks in the Shadows

When you think of cybercrime, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely cybercriminals operating on the dark web. Last year, however, cybercriminals made the jump over to social media and cashed in big – $3 billion worth, as a matter of fact. With approximately 2.77 billion people using one social media account or more, it’s no wonder these bad actors have followed the masses. While the average user distrusts the dark web, they do trust their chosen social media platforms. Whether it’s sharing birthdates or a current location, or accepting a follow or message request from strangers, users in front of a screen feel secure. Although, as the line between social platforms and the dark web quickly blurs, the events behind the screen are the real issue.

Since 2017, cryptomining malware has exploded on a global scale, with over half of the identified strains found on social media sites. Utilizing apps, advertisements, and malicious links, cybercriminals were able to deliver these attacks and earn $250 million per year. Not only are social media platforms being used to distribute cryptomining malware, but they are also used as a major source for spreading other types of malware – malvertisments, faulty plug-ins, and apps – that draw users in by offering “too good to be true” deals. Once clicked on, the malware attacks. From there, cybercriminals can obtain data, establish keyloggers, dispense ransomware, and lurk in the shadows of social media accounts in wait for the next opportunity.

That next opportunity could also be on a completely different social media platform. As these sites unknowingly make it easier for malware to spread from one site to another. Many social media accounts interconnect with one another across platforms, which enables “chain exploitation,” or where malware can jump from one account to the next.

In short, social media is a cash cow for cybercriminals, and they are showing no sign of slowing down. What it really comes down to is social platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, attract a significant number of users and are going to draw in a criminal component too. However, if you take the proper security precautions ahead of time, you can fight off bad actors and continuously scroll with confidence. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Limit the amount of personal information shared in the first place. Avoid posting home addresses, full birth dates, and employer information, as well as exact location details of where you are.
  • Be wary of messages and follow requests from strangers. Avoid clicking on links sent by someone you don’t know personally.
  • Report any spam posts or messages you encounter to the social media platform. Then they can stop the threat from spreading to other accounts.
  • Always use comprehensive security software. To help protect you from viruses, spyware, and other digital threats that may emerge from social media sites, consider McAfee Total Protection or McAfee Mobile Security.

Interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information? Follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

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Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home

Like most parents, before you go to sleep each night, you take extra care to lock doors and windows to keep your family safe from any outside threats. The only thing you may have overlooked is the smartphone illuminated on your nightstand. And if you were to add up the smartphones humming all over your house, suddenly you’d have a number of unlocked doors that a determined criminal could enter through. Maybe not tonight — but eventually.

Digital Ecosystem

Over time you’ve purchased and plugged in devices throughout your home. You might have a voice assistant, a baby monitor, a thermostat, a treadmill, a gaming system, a fitness watch, smart TVs, a refrigerator, and many other fun, useful gadgets. Each purchase likely connects to your smartphone. Take stock: You now have a digital ecosystem growing all around you. And while you rarely stop to take notice of this invisible power grid around you, hackers can’t stop thinking about it.

This digital framework that pulsates within your home gives cybercriminals potential new entryways into your life and your data. Depending on your devices, by accessing your smartphone, outsiders may be able to unlock your literal doors while you are away (via your home security system), eavesdrop on your family conversations and collect important information (via your voice assistant), access financial information (via your gaming system, tablet, or laptop).

What you can do:

  • Change factory security settings. Before you fire up that smart TV, drone, or sound system, be sure to change each product’s factory settings and replace it with a bulletproof password to put a layer of protection between you and would-be hackers.
  • Protect your home network. We are connected people living in connected homes. So, part of the wired lifestyle is taking the lead on doing all we can to protect it. One way to do that is at the router level with built-in network security, which can help secure your connected devices.
  • Stay on top of software updates. Cybercrooks rely on consumers to ignore software updates; it makes their job so much easier. So be sure to install updates to your devices, security software, and IoT products when alerted to do so.

Smartphone = Front Gate

The most common entry point to all of these connected things is your smartphone. While you’ve done a lot of things to protect your phone — a lock screen, secure passwords on accounts, and system updates — there are hacking tactics you likely know nothing about. According to McAfee’s recent  Mobile Threat Report, you don’t know because the scope and complexity of mobile hacks are increasing at alarming rates.

Hidden Apps

The latest statistics report that the average person has between 60-90 apps installed on their phones. Multiply that between all the users in your home, and you are looking at anywhere from 200-500 apps living under your digital roof. Hackers gravitate toward digital trends. They go where the most people congregate because that’s where they can grab the most money. Many of us control everything in our homes from our apps, so app downloads are off the charts, which is why crooks have engineered some of their most sophisticated schemes specifically around app users.

Hidden apps are a way that crooks trick users into letting them inside their phones. Typically, hidden apps (such as TimpDoor) get to users via Google Play when they download games or customized tools. TimpDoor will then directly communicate with users via a text with a link to a voice message that gives detailed instructions to enable apps from unknown sources. That link downloads malware which will run in the background after the app closes. Users often forget they’ve downloaded this and go on with life while the malware runs in the background and can access other internal networks on the smartphone.

What you can do:

  • Stay alert. Don’t fall for the traps or click links to other apps sent via text message.
  • Stay legit. Only download apps hosted by the original trusted stores and verified partner sites.
  • Avoid spam. Don’t click on any email links, pop-ups, or direct messages that include suspicious links, password prompts, or fake attachments. Delete and block spam emails and texts.
  • Disable and delete. If you are not using an app, disable it. And, as a safety habit, remove apps from your phone, tablet, or laptop you no longer use.

Fake Apps

Again, crooks go where the most people congregate, and this year it is the 60 million+ downloaded game Fortnite. The Fortnite craze has lead hackers to design fake Fortnite apps masquerading as the real thing. The fraudulent app designers go to great lengths to make the download look legitimate. They offer enticing downloads and promise users a ton of free perks and add ons. Once users download the fake app, crooks can collect money through ads, send text messages with more bad app links, crypto jack users, or install malware or spyware.

What you can do:

  • Don’t install apps from unknown sources. Not all gaming companies distribute via Google Play or the App Store. This makes it even harder for users to know that the app they are downloading is legit. Do all you can to verify the legitimacy of the site you are downloading from.
  • Delete suspicious acting apps. If you download an app and it begins to request access to anything outside of its service, delete it immediately from your device.
  • Update devices regularly. Keep new bugs and threats at bay by updating your devices automatically.
  • Monitor bank statements. Check statements regularly to monitor the activity of the card linked to your Fortnite account. If you notice repeat or multiple transactions from your account or see charges that you don’t recognize, alert your bank immediately.
  • Be a savvy app user. Verify an app’s legitimacy. Read other user reviews and be discerning before you download anything. This practice also applies to partner sites that sell game hacks, credits, patches, or virtual assets players use to gain rank within a game. Beware of “free” downloads and avoid illegal file-sharing sites. Free downloads can be hotbeds for malware. Stick with the safer, paid options from a reputable source.

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How to Safeguard Your Family Against A Medical Data Breach

Medical Data BreachThe risk to your family’s healthcare data often begins with that piece of paper on a clipboard your physician or hospital asks you to fill out or in the online application for healthcare you completed.

That data gets transferred into a computer where a patient Electronic Health Record (EHR) is created or added to. From there, depending on the security measures your physician, healthcare facility, or healthcare provider has put in place, your data is either safely stored or up for grabs.

It’s a double-edged sword: We all need healthcare but to access it we have to hand over our most sensitive data armed only with the hope that the people on the other side of the glass window will do their part to protect it.

Breaches on the Rise

Feeling a tad vulnerable? You aren’t alone. The stats on medical breaches don’t do much to assuage consumer fears.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that the number of annual health data breaches increased 70% over the past seven years, with 75% of the breached, lost, or stolen records being breached by a hacking or IT incident at a cost close to consumers at nearly $6 billion.

The IoT Factor

Medical Data Breach

Not only are medical facilities vulnerable to hackers, but with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) consumer products — which, in short, means everything is digitally connected to everything else — also provide entry points for hackers. Wireless devices at risk include insulin pumps and monitors, Fitbits, scales, thermometers, heart and blood pressure monitors.

To protect yourself when using these devices, experts recommend staying on top of device updates and inputting as little personal information as possible when launching and maintaining the app or device.

The Dark Web

The engine driving healthcare attacks of all kinds is the Dark Web where criminals can buy, sell, and trade stolen consumer data without detection. Healthcare data is precious because it often includes a much more complete picture of a person including social security number, credit card/banking information, birthdate, address, health care card information, and patient history.

With this kind of data, many corrupt acts are possible including identity theft, fraudulent medical claims, tax fraud, credit card fraud, and the list goes on. Complete medical profiles garner higher prices on the Dark Web.

Some of the most valuable data to criminals are children’s health information (stolen from pediatrician offices) since a child’s credit records are clean and more useful tools in credit card fraud.

According to Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow, Advanced Threat Research, predictions for 2019 include criminals working even more diligently in the Dark Web marketplace to devise and launch more significant threats.

“The game of cat and mouse the security industry plays with ransomware developers will escalate, and the industry will need to respond more quickly and effectively than ever before,” Says Samani.

Medical Data Breach

Healthcare professionals, hospitals, and health insurance companies, while giving criminals an entry point, though responsible, aren’t the bad guys. They are being fined by the government for breaches and lack of proper security, and targeted and extorted by cyber crooks, while simultaneously focusing on patient care and outcomes. Another factor working against them is the lack of qualified cybersecurity professionals equipped to protect healthcare practices and facilities.

Protecting ourselves and our families in the face of this kind of threat can feel overwhelming and even futile. It’s not. Every layer of protection you build between you and a hacker, matters. There are some things you can do to strengthen your family’s healthcare data practices.

Ways to Safeguard Medical Data

Don’t be quick to share your SSN. Your family’s patient information needs to be treated like financial data because it has that same power. For that reason, don’t give away your Social Security Number — even if a medical provider asks for it. The American Medical Association (AMA) discourages medical professionals from collecting patient SSNs nowadays in light of all the security breaches.

Keep your healthcare card close. Treat your healthcare card like a banking card. Know where it is, only offer it to physicians when checking in for an appointment, and report it immediately if it’s missing.

Monitor statements. The Federal Trade Commission recommends consumers keep a close eye on medical bills. If someone has compromised your data, you will notice bogus charges right away. Pay close attention to your “explanation of benefits,” and immediately contact your healthcare provider if anything appears suspicious.

Ask about security. While it’s not likely you can change your healthcare provider’s security practices on the spot, the more consumers inquire about security standards, the more accountable healthcare providers are to following strong data protection practices.

Pay attention to apps, wearables. Understand how app owners are using your data. Where is the data stored? Who is it shared with? If the app seems sketchy on privacy, find a better one.

How to Protect IoT Devices

Medical Data Breach

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), IoT devices, while improving medical care and outcomes, have their own set of safety precautions consumers need to follow.

  • Change default usernames and passwords
  • Isolate IoT devices on their protected networks
  • Configure network firewalls to inhibit traffic from unauthorized IP addresses
  • Implement security recommendations from the device manufacturer and, if appropriate, turn off devices when not in use
  • Visit reputable websites that specialize in cybersecurity analysis when purchasing an IoT device
  • Ensure devices and their associated security patches are up-to-date
  • Apply cybersecurity best practices when connecting devices to a wireless network
  • Invest in a secure router with appropriate security and authentication practices

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How to Steer Clear of Tax Season Scams

*This blog contains research discovered by Elizabeth Farrell

It’s that time of year again – tax season! Whether you’ve already filed in the hopes of an early refund or have yet to start the process, one thing is for sure: cybercriminals will certainly use tax season as a means to get victims to give up their personal and financial information. This time of year is advantageous for malicious actors since the IRS and tax preparers are some of the few people who actually need your personal data. As a result, consumers are targeted with various scams impersonating trusted sources like the IRS or DIY tax software companies. Fortunately, every year the IRS outlines the most prevalent tax scams, such as voice phishing, email phishing, and fake tax software scams. Let’s explore the details of these threats.

So, how do cybercriminals use voice phishing to impersonate the IRS? Voice phishing, a form of criminal phone fraud, uses social engineering tactics to gain access to victims’ personal and financial information. For tax scams, criminals will make unsolicited calls posing as the IRS and leave voicemails requesting an immediate callback. The crooks will then demand that the victim pay a phony tax bill in the form of a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card. In one case outlined by Forbes, victims received emails in their inbox that allegedly contained voicemails from the IRS. The emails didn’t actually contain any voicemails but instead directed victims to a suspicious SharePoint URL. Last year, a number of SharePoint phishing scams occurred as an attempt to steal Office 365 credentials, so it’s not surprising that cybercriminals are using this technique to access taxpayers’ personal data now as well.

In addition to voice phishing schemes, malicious actors are also using email to try and get consumers to give up their personal and financial information. This year alone, almost 400 IRS phishing URLs have been reported. Even back in December, we saw a surge of new email phishing scams trying to fool consumers into thinking the message was coming from the IRS or other members of the tax community. In a typical email phishing scheme, scammers try to obtain personal tax information like usernames and passwords by using spoofed email addresses and stolen logos. In many cases, the emails contain suspicious hyperlinks that redirect users to a fake site or PDF attachments that may download malware or viruses. If a victim clicks on these malicious links or attachments, they can seriously endanger their tax data by giving identity thieves the opportunity to steal their refund. What’s more, cybercriminals are also using subject lines like “IRS Important Notice” and “IRS Taxpayer Notice” and demanding payment or threatening to seize the victim’s tax refund.

Cybercriminals are even going so far as to impersonate trusted brands like TurboTax for their scams. In this case, DIY tax preparers who search for TurboTax software on Google are shown ads for pirated versions of TurboTax. The victims will pay a fee for the software via PayPal, only to have their computer infected with malware after downloading the software. You may be wondering, how do victims happen upon this malicious software through a simple Google search? Unfortunately, scammers have been paying to have their spoofed sites show up in search results, increasing the chances that an innocent taxpayer will fall victim to their scheme.

Money is a prime motivator for many consumers, and malicious actors are fully prepared to exploit this. Many people are concerned about how much they might owe or are predicting how much they’ll get back on their tax refund, and scammers play to both of these emotions. So, as hundreds of taxpayers are waiting for a potential tax return, it’s important that they navigate tax season wisely. Check out the following tips to avoid being spoofed by cybercriminals and identity thieves:

  • File before cybercriminals do it for you. The easiest defense you can take against tax seasons schemes is to get your hands on your W-2 and file as soon as possible. The more prompt you are to file, the less likely your data will be raked in by a cybercriminal.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report. FYI – you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once a year. So, make it a habit to request a copy of your file every three to four months, each time from a different credit bureau. That way, you can keep better track of and monitor any suspicious activity and act early if something appears fishy.
  • Beware of phishing attempts. It’s clear that phishing is the primary tactic crooks are leveraging this tax season, so it’s crucial you stay vigilant around your inbox. This means if any unfamiliar or remotely suspicious emails come through requesting tax data, double check their legitimacy with a manager or the security department before you respond. Be wary of strange file attachment names such as “virus-for-you.doc.” Remember: the IRS only contacts people by snail mail, so if you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, stay away.
  • Watch out for spoofed websites. Scammers have extremely sophisticated tools that help disguise phony web addresses for DIY tax software, such as stolen company logos and site designs. To avoid falling for this, go directly to the source. Type the address of a website directly into the address bar of your browser instead of following a link from an email or internet search. If you receive any suspicious links in your email, investigating the domain is usually a good way to tell if the source is legitimate or not.
  • Consider an identity theft protection solution. If for some reason your personal data does become compromised, be sure to use an identity theft solution such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protect their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

And, as always, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Don’t Take the Bait! How to Steer Clear of Tax Time Scams

tax time scamsFor cybercriminals tax time is the most wonderful time of the year. They are in the shadows giddy, eager, and methodically setting a variety of digital traps knowing that enough taxpayers take the bait to render their efforts worthwhile.

Indeed, with the frenzy of online tax filings, personal information (and money) moving through mailboxes, and hardworking people eagerly awaiting tax refunds, crooks are perfectly positioned for big returns this year.

So let’s be wiser and let’s be ready.

Last year, the IRS noted a 60 percent spike in bogus email schemes seeking to steal money or tax information. This year its a surge in phishing scams, says the IRS, that should have taxpayers on alert.

“The holidays and tax season present great opportunities for scam artists to try stealing valuable information through fake emails,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Watch your inbox for these sophisticated schemes that try to fool you into thinking they’re from the IRS or our partners in the tax community. Taking a few simple steps can protect yourself during the holiday season and at tax time.”

Scams to Look For

According to the IRS, phishing emails are circulating with subjects such as “IRS Important Notice,” “IRS Taxpayer Notice” and other iterations of that message. The fraudulent emails may demand payment with the threat of seizing the recipient’s tax refund or even jail time.

tax time scams

Attacks may also use email or malicious links to solicit tax or financial information by posing as a trustworthy organization or even a personal friend or business associate of the recipient.

While some emails may have obvious spelling errors or grammar mistakes, some scammers have gone to great lengths to piece together a victim’s personal information to gain their trust. These emails look legitimate, have an authentic tone, and are crafted to get even skeptics to compromise personal data using malicious web links.

Scams include emails with hyperlinks that take users to a fake site or PDF attachments that may download malware or viruses designed to grab sensitive information off your devices. With the right data in hand such as a social security number, crooks can file fake returns and claim your tax return, open credit cards, or run up medical bills.

Other tax scams include threatening phone calls from bogus IRS agents demanding immediate payment of past due tax bills and robocalls that leave urgent callback messages designed to scare victims into immediate payment.

Remember, the IRS will NOT:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.
  • Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.tax time scams
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or
    e-mail.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

How to Protect Yourself

Be hyper-aware. Never open a link or attachment from an unknown or suspicious source. In fact, approach all emails with caution even those from people you know. Scams are getting more sophisticated. According to the IRS, thieves can compromise a friend’s email address, or they may be spoofing the address with a slight change in the email text that is hard to recognize.

Reduce your digital footprint. Now is a great time to go through your social accounts and online profiles, posts, and photos and boost your family’s privacy. Edit out any personal information such as your alma mater, your address, birthdate, pet names, children’s names, or mother’s maiden name. Consider making your social profiles private and filtering your friends’ list to actual people you know.

Have a strong password strategy. Cybercrooks count on their victims using the same password for multiple accounts. Lock them out by using unique passwords for separate accounts. Also, consider using two-factor authentification that requires a security code (sent to your phone) to access your account.

Install security software. Phishing emails carry malware and viruses designed to infect your devices and grab your family’s sensitive data or even seize your computer via ransomware. Crooks aren’t messing around so neither should you. Meet fire with fire by investing in comprehensive security software to protect your devices.

If you are the victim of tax fraud or identity theft, take the proper reporting steps. If you receive any unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS, forward them to phishing@irs.gov  (then delete the emails).

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The Risks of Public Wi-Fi and How to Close the Security Gap

public wi-fi risksAs I write this blog post, I’m digitally exposed, and I know it. For the past week, I’ve had to log on to a hospital’s public Wi-Fi each day to work while a loved one recuperates.

What seems like a routine, casual connection to the hospital’s Wi-Fi isn’t. Using public Wi-Fi is a daily choice loaded with risk. Sure, I’m conducting business and knocking out my to-do list like a rock star but at what cost to my security?

The Risks

By using public Wi-Fi, I’ve opened my online activity and personal data (via my laptop) up to a variety of threats including eavesdropping, malware distribution, and bitcoin mining. There’s even a chance I could have logged on to a malicious hotspot that looked like the hospital network.

Like many public Wi-Fi spots, the hospital’s network could lack encryption, which is a security measure that scrambles the information sent from my computer to the hospital’s router so other people can’t read it. Minus encryption, whatever I send over the hospital’s network could potentially be intercepted and used maliciously by cybercriminals.

Because logging on to public Wi-Fi is often a necessity — like my situation this week — security isn’t always the first thing on our minds. But over the past year, a new normal is emerging. A lot of us are thinking twice. With data breaches, privacy concerns, the increase in the market for stolen credentials, and increasingly sophisticated online scams making the headlines every day, the risks of using public Wi-Fi are front and center.

Rising Star: VPNpublic wi-fi risks

The solution to risky public Wi-Fi? A Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN allows users to securely access a private network and share data remotely through public networks. Much like a firewall protects the data on your computer, a VPN protects your online activity by encrypting your data when you connect to the internet from a remote or public location. A VPN also conceals your location, IP address, and online activity.

Using a VPN helps protect you from potential hackers using public Wi-Fi, which is one of their favorite easy-to-access security loopholes.

Who Needs a VPN?

If you (or your family members) travel and love to shop online, access your bank account, watch movies, and do everyday business via your phone or laptop, a VPN would allow you to connect safely and encrypt your data no matter where you are.

A VPN can mask, or scramble, your physical location, banking account credentials, and credit card information.

Also, if you have a family data plan you’ve likely encouraged your kids to save data by connecting to public Wi-Fi whenever possible. Using a VPN, this habit would be secured from criminal sniffers and snoopers.

A VPN allows you to connect to a proxy server that will access online sites on your behalf and enables a secure connection most anywhere you go. A VPN also allows hides your IP address and allows you to browse anonymously from any location.

How VPNs work

To use a VPN you subscribe to VPN service, download the app onto your desktop or phone, set up your account, and then log onto a VPN server to conduct your online activity privately.

If you are still logging on to public Wi-Fi, here are a few tips to keep you safe until VPNs become as popular as Wi-Fi.

Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi 

Verify your connection. Fake networks that mine your data abound. If you are logging on to Wi-Fi in a coffee shop, hotel, airport, or library, verify the exact name of the network with an employee. Also, only use Wi-Fi that requires a password to log on.public wi-fi risks

Don’t get distracted. For adults, as well as kids, it’s easy to get distracted and absorbed with our screens — this is risky when on public Wi-Fi, according to Diana Graber, author of Raising Humans in a Digital World. “Knowing how to guard their personal information online is one of the most important skills parents need to equip their young kids with today,” says Graber. “Lots of young people visit public spaces, like a local coffee shop or library, and use public Wi-Fi to do homework, for example. It’s not uncommon for them to get distracted by something else online or even tempted to buy something, without realizing their personal information (or yours!) might be at risk.”

Disable auto Wi-Fi connect. If your phone automatically joins surrounding networks, you can disable this function in your settings. Avoid linking to unknown or unrecognized networks.

Turn off Wi-Fi when done. Your computer or phone can still transmit data even when you are not using it. Be sure to disable your Wi-Fi from the network when you are finished using it.

Avoid financial transactions. If you must use public Wi-Fi, don’t conduct a sensitive transaction such as banking, shopping, or any kind of activity that requires your social security or credit card numbers or password use. Wait until you get to a secured home network to conduct personal business.

Look for the HTTPS. Fake or unsecured websites will not have the HTTPS in their address. Also, look for the little lock icon in the address bar to confirm a secure connection.

Secure your devices. Use a personal VPN as an extra layer of security against hackers and malware.

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Valentine’s Alert: Don’t Let Scammers Break Your Heart or Your Bank Account

Online Dating ScamsIt’s hard to believe that as savvy as we’ve become about our tech, people are still getting catfished, scammed, and heartbroken in their pursuit of love online.

The dinner conversation between bystanders goes something like this: “How could anyone be so dumb? Seriously? If they are going to be that reckless and uninformed, then maybe they deserve what they got!”

Some friends and I recently had a similar conversation about online dating scams. I noticed, however, that one friend, Sarah*, wasn’t so eager to jump into the conversation. She shrunk back in the booth and quietly sipped her margarita. Only later did she share her story with me.

The power of love

A single mom in her late 40s, well-educated, and attractive, Sarah’s teenager had convinced her to join a dating site the year before. She was especially lonely after her divorce three years earlier, so she agreed to create a profile on a popular dating app. After a handful of dates fell flat, she found Scott. He was charismatic, kind. “We had an instant connection,” according to Sarah. They spent hours on the phone sharing their deepest secrets and even started imagining a future together. But after about three months, Scott fell on hard times. At first, he needed to borrow $400 to pay for airfare to visit a dying relative, which he paid back immediately. Over the next few months, the numbers grew to $1,000 for rent and $3,000 for a business venture.

Online Dating Scams

Before long, Sarah had loaned her new love over $8,500. When she pressed him to repay the money, Scott ghosted Sarah online, moved out of town, and she never saw him again. My friend didn’t share her story with many people. She didn’t report it. She was too embarrassed and humiliated and even became depressed following what she calls “the Scott scam.” Her trust in other people and in love itself has been obliterated.

Sarah’s story doesn’t just echo that of desperate, clueless people, or lonely older women. Scammers are targeting good people who still believe in and value love and companionship. The pursuit of love online extends to adults as well as teens.

Confidence Fraud

Law enforcement calls these kinds of online romance scams confidence fraud because scammers will take a considerable amount of time gaining the trust and confidence of their victims. They will appear empathetic and supportive as they gather personal information they can use over time to carry out their scam.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confidence fraud has jumped 20% in the past year despite reports and warnings — especially around this time of year.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports that romance scams top all other financial online crimes. In 2016, people reported almost 15,000 romance scams to IC3 (nearly 2,500 more than the previous year), with losses exceeding $230 million.

Tips for Safe Online Dating

Never send money. Be it a romantic relationship you’ve engaged with or a phishing email, no matter the sob story, do not send money to anyone online. If you do send money, put a loan agreement in place that is legally enforceable should one party default.

Suspicious behavior. If someone promises to meet you somewhere but keeps canceling or if he or she refuses to video chat, those are red flags. Technology means anyone from anywhere in the world can successfully maintain a scam.Online Dating Scams

Take things slow. If someone is pushing the pace of a relationship or too quick to declare love and talk about the future, pause and assess the situation.

Do a background check. Love is a powerful force and can easily cloud a person’s correct understanding of reality. If you dare to create a dating profile, make a deal with yourself that you will extend the same courage to doing a background check on someone.

Be a sleuth. Don’t be afraid to gather facts on someone you’ve met online. Simple steps such as Googling the person’s name or dropping their photo in Google’s Reverse Image Search will help you get a better understanding of a person. Have faith: Good, legitimate people do exist. However, if there’s anything dubious, it’s best to find it out earlier rather than later. Part of doing your homework is tracking down mutual friends and making inquiries about the person you are talking with online.

Keep your social profiles private. Experts agree that you should edit your online footprint before you start dating people you’ve met online. Making your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook private will guard you against potential.

Never send racy photos. Some scammers gain the confidence of their victims with every intention of extorting them in the future. They will threaten to send any racy photos with your family, friends, or business associates. The best way to avoid this is to never, ever send racy photos to anyone.Online Dating Scams

Google yourself, restrict info. Google yourself to see if there are any digital breadcrumbs that give away your home address or phone number. If possible, delete or revise that info. Likewise, go through your social accounts and remove any personal information you’ve shared in the past. Digital stalking is a risk for people who date online so turn off GPS on your dating apps and make sure your profile information is vague. Even if you get comfortable online with others, never get too comfortable since apps have privacy loopholes that can easily be exploited by hackers.

Take solid precautions. Enlist at least one friend as your dating safety pal. This will be the person who knows where you are going, who you will be with, and the background on the person you are meeting. Ask that person to check in with you during the date and carry pepper spray or a taser for physical protection. Go the extra step and turn on your Friend Finder or a location app that allows safety friend to track your whereabouts during a date.

*Names have been changed

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Safer Internet Day 2019 – Together for a Better Internet

What You Can Do Today to Help Create a Better Internet

 

Today is Safer Internet Day (SID) – an annual worldwide event to encourage us all to work together to create a better internet. Celebrated globally in over 130 countries, SID is an opportunity for millions of people worldwide to come together to inspire positive change and raise awareness about the importance of online safety.

The theme for 2019 is: ‘Together for a Better Internet’ which I believe is a timely reminder of the importance of us all working together if we are serious about making the internet a safer place. Whether we are parents, carers, teachers or just avid users, we all have a part to play.

The 4R’s of Online Safety

In order to make a positive change to our online world, this year we are being encouraged to focus on four critical skills that many experts believe will help us all (especially our kids) better navigate the internet and create a more positive online environment. Let’s call them the 4R’s of online safety: Respect, Responsibility, Reasoning and Resilience. So, here is my advice on what we can do to try and incorporate these four important skills into our family’s digital lives

  1. Respect – ‘I treat myself and others the way I like to be treated’

I firmly believe that having respect for others online is critical if we are going to foster a safer and more supportive internet for our children and future generations. While many parents realise that our constant reminders about the importance of good manners and respect must also now be extended to include the online world, not everyone is on the same page.

Keyboard warriors who fire off abusive comments online, or harass and troll others clearly do not have any notion of online respect. Online actions can have serious real-world implications. In fact, online actions can often have more significant implications as the dialogue is not just contained to a few, rather it is witnessed by everyone’s online friends which could stretch into the 1000’s. Such public exchanges then create the opportunity for commentary which often further magnifies the hurt and fallout.

It is therefore essential that we have very direct conversations with our children about what is and isn’t appropriate online. And if there is even any confusion, always revert to one of my favourite lessons from my Sunday School days: treat others how you would like to be treated yourself.

  1. Responsibility – ‘I am accountable for my actions and I take a stand when I feel something is wrong’

In my opinion, teaching our kids online responsibility is another important step in making the internet a better place. Ensuring our kids understand that they are not only responsible but accountable for their behaviour is essential. If they harass or bully others online, or are involved in sending inappropriate pics, there are consequences that could quite possible include interactions with the police department.

But being responsible online also means getting involved if you feel something isn’t right. Whether a mate is on the receiving end of online harassment or a cruel joke, getting involved and telling the perpetrator that their behaviour ‘isn’t cool’ is essential.

  1. Reasoning – ‘I question what is real’

Teaching our kids to think critically is an essential survival skill for our kids in our content-driven online world. We need our kids to question, analyse and verify online content. They need to be able to identify reputable and credible sources and think carefully before they share and digest information.

The best thing we can do as parents is challenge our kids and get them thinking! If for example, your child is researching online for a school assignment then get them thinking. Ask them what agenda the author of the article has. Ask them whether there is a counter argument to the one laid out in the article. Ask them whether the source sharing the information is trustworthy. The aim is to teach them to question and not take anything they find online at face value.

  1. Resilience – ‘I get back up from tough situations’

Unfortunately, the chances that your child will experience some challenges online is quite high. Whether someone posts a mean comment, they are harassed, or worst case, cyberbullied – these nasty online interactions can really hurt.

Ensuring your kids know that they can come to you about any issue they experience is essential. And you need to repeat this to them regularly, so they don’t forget! And if your child does come to you with a problem they experienced online, the worst thing you can do is threaten to disconnect them. If you do this, I guarantee you that they will never share anything else with you again.

In 2014, Parent Zone, one of the UK’s leading family digital safety organisations collaborated with the Oxford Internet Institute to examine ways to build children’s online resilience. The resulting report, A Shared Responsibility: Building Children’s Online Resilience, showed that unconditional love and respect from parents, a good set of digital skills plus the opportunity for kids to take risks and develop strategies in the online world – without being overly micro-managed by their parents – were key to building online resilience.

So, love them, educate them and give them some independence so they can start to take some small risks online and start developing resilience.

What Can You Do this Safer Internet Day?

Why not pledge to make one small change to help make the internet a better place this Safer Internet Day? Whether it’s modelling online respect, reminding your kids of their online responsibilities, challenging them to demonstrate reasoning when assessing online content or working with them to develop online resilience, just a few small steps can make a positive change.

 

 

 

 

 

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How Safe is Your Child’s School WiFi?

School WiFi. For many of our digital natives, school WiFi may even be a more important part of their daily life than the canteen!! And that is saying something…

You’d be hard pressed to find a child who rocked up to school without a device in their backpack in our digital age. The vast majority of schools have embraced the many positive learning benefits that internet-connected devices offer our kids. The traditional blackboard and textbook lessons that were confined to the four walls of the classroom are gone. Instead our kids can research, discover, collaborate, create and most importantly, learn like never before.

But in order for this new learning to occur, our kids need to be internet connected. And this is where school WiFi comes into play.

Do Parents Need to Be Concerned About School WiFi?

As parents, we have a responsibility to ensure our kids are safe and not at risk – and that includes when they are using the WiFi at school. Ideally, your child’s school should have a secure WiFi network but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they do. School budgets are tight and top-notch secure WiFi networks are expensive, so in some cases, security maybe jeopardised.

The other factor we shouldn’t ignore is that our batch of digital natives are very tech literate. The possibility that one of them may choose to cause some mayhem to their school WiFi network should also not be ignored!!

At the end of the day, the security of a WiFi network is all about whether it has tight access controls. If it allows only approved devices and people to connect via a secure login then it is more secure than public WiFi. However, if it is open to anyone or easy for anyone to connect to it, then you need to treat it like public WiFi.

What Are the Risks?

An unsecured school WiFi network is as risky as public WiFi which, according to the Harvard Business Review, is as risky as rolling a dice,

Students and staff who use an unsecured WiFi network are at risk of receiving phishing emails, being the victim of a ransomware attack or even having their data or personal details stolen. There is also a risk that the entire school’s operations could be disrupted and possibly even closed down through a DDOS – a Denial of Service Attack.

What Can Parents Do to Ensure Their Kids Are Safe Using School WiFi?

There are several steps parents can take to minimise the risks when their offspring use school WiFi.

  1. Talk To Your School

The first thing to do is speak to your child’s school to understand exactly how secure their network is. I’d recommend asking who has access to the network, what security practices they have in place and how they manage your child’s private data.

  1. Install Security Software

Operating a device without security software is no different to leaving your front door unlocked. Installing security software on all devices, including smartphones, will provide protection against viruses, online threats, risky websites and dangerous downloads. Check out McAfee’s Total Protection security software for total peace of mind!

  1. Keep Device Software Up To Date

Software updates are commonly designed to address security issues. So ensuring ALL your devices are up to date is a relatively easy way of minimising the risk of being hacked.

  1. Schedule Regular Data Back Up

If you are the victim of a ransomware attack and your data is backed up then you won’t even have to consider paying the hefty fee to retrieve your (or your child’s) data. Backing up data regularly should be not negotiable however life can often get in the way. Why not schedule automatic backups? I personally love online backup options such as Dropbox and Google Drive however you may choose to invest in a hard drive.

  1. Public Wi-Fi Rules?

If after talking to your school, you aren’t convinced that your child’s school WiFi network is secure, then I recommend that your kids should treat it as if it was public WiFi. This means that they should NEVER conduct any financial transactions using it and never share any personal details. But the absolute best way of ensuring your child is safe using an unsecured WiFi network, is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN like McAfee’s Safe Connect creates an encrypted tunnel so anything that is shared over WiFi is completely safe.

As a mum of 4, I am very keen to ensure my kids are engaged with their learning. And in our digital times, this means devices and WiFi. So, let’s support our kids and their teachers in their quest for interactive, digital learning but please don’t forget to check in and ensure your kids are as safe as possible while using WiFi at school.

Take Care

Alex xx

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Holiday Rush: How to Check Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself When Shopping Online

It was the last item on my list and Christmas was less than a week away. I was on the hunt for a white Northface winter coat my teenage daughter that she had duly ranked as the most-important-die-if-I-don’t-get-it item on her wishlist that year.

After fighting the crowds and scouring the stores to no avail, I went online, stressed and exhausted with my credit card in hand looking for a deal and a Christmas delivery guarantee.

Mistake #1: I was under pressure and cutting it way too close to Christmas.
Mistake #2: I was stressed and exhausted.
Mistake #3: I was adamant about getting the best deal.

Gimme a deal!

It turns out these mistakes created the perfect storm for a scam. I found a site with several name brand named coats available lower prices. I was thrilled to find the exact white coat and guaranteed delivery by Christmas. The cyber elves were working on my behalf for sure!

Only the coat never came and I was out $150.

In my haste and exhaustion, I overlooked a few key things about this “amazing” site that played into the scam. (I’ll won’t harp on the part about me calling customer service a dozen times, writing as many emails, and feeling incredible stupidity over my careless clicking)!

Stress = Digital Risk

I’m not alone in my holiday behaviors it seems. A recent McAfee survey, Stressed Holiday Online Shopping, reveals, unfortunately, that when it comes to online shopping, consumers are often more concerned about finding a deal online than they are with protecting their cybersecurity in the process. 

Here are the kinds of risks stressed consumers are willing to take to get a holiday deal online:

  • 53% think the financial stress of the holidays can lead to careless shopping online.
  • 56% said that they would use a website they were unfamiliar with if it meant they would save money.
  • 51% said they would purchase an item from an untrusted online retailer to get a good deal.
  • 31% would click on a link in an email to get a bargain, regardless of whether they were familiar with the sender.
  • When it comes to sharing personal information to get a good deal: 39% said they would risk sharing their email address, 25% would wager their phone number, and 16% percent would provide their home address.

3 Tips to Safer Online Shopping:

  • Connect with caution. Using public Wi-Fi might seem like a good idea at the moment, but you could be exposing your personal information or credit card details to cybercriminals eavesdropping on the unsecured network. If public Wi-Fi must be used to conduct transactions, use a virtual private network (VPN) to help ensure a secure connection.
  • Slow down and think before you click. Don’t be like me exhausted and desperate while shopping online — think before you click! Cybercriminal love to target victims by using phishing emails disguised as holiday savings or shipping notification, to lure consumers into clicking links that could lead to malware, or a phony website designed to steal personal information. Check directly with the source to verify an offer or shipment.
  • Browse with security protection. Use comprehensive security protection that can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. Protect your personal information by using a home solution that keeps your identity and financial information secure.
  • Take a nap, stay aware. This may not seem like an important cybersecurity move, but during the holiday rush, stress and exhaustion can wear you down and contribute to poor decision-making online. Outsmarting the cybercrooks means awareness and staying ahead of the threats.

I learned the hard way that holiday stress and shopping do not mix and can easily compromise my online security. I lost $150 that day and I put my credit card information (promptly changed) firmly into a crook’s hands. I hope by reading this, I can help you save far more than that.

Here’s wishing you and your family the Happiest of Holidays! May all your online shopping be merry, bright, and secure from all those pesky digital Grinches!

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Attention Red Dead Redemption 2 Players: Dodge This New Download Scam

Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 has struck a popular chord with many online gamers. Unfortunately, the Western-themed action-adventure game has also become a popular vessel for malicious activity among cybercriminals as well. Scammers are tricking gamers into giving up their personal information with phony “free” downloads of the online game, while simultaneously making a profit on these downloads.

You’re probably wondering how exactly this scam works. It first begins with cybercriminals planting their phony download traps in ads on platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and blog postings. With other, less sophisticated scams, a user would be prompted to install several bundled applications at this point, each one generating revenue for the scammer. But this scheme works a little bit differently. When the user clicks on the “download” button, they are presented with a fake install screen showing the progression of the game’s download process.  The fake install takes about an hour to complete, further giving the illusion that a large file is actually being downloaded on the user’s device.

Once the fake installation is complete, the user is asked to enter a nonexistent license key (a pattern of numbers and/or letters provided to licensed users of a software program). If a user clicks on one of the buttons on this screen, they are redirected to a website asking for human verification in the form of surveys and questionnaires. These surveys trick the user into divulging their personal information for the cybercriminal’s disposal. What’s more, the scammer earns revenue for their malicious acts.

Because this scheme tricks users into handing over their personal information, it affects a victim’s overall privacy. Luckily, there are steps users can take to combat this threat:

  • Browse with caution. Many scammers target gamers through popular websites like YouTube and Twitter to push out malicious content. Use discretion when browsing these websites.
  • Only download content from trusted sources. If you come across a download offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Only download software from legitimate sources and avoid sites if you can’t tell whether they are trustworthy or not.
  • Use security software to browse the internet. Sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish whether a site is malicious or not. Security solutions like McAfee WebAdvisor can detect the URLs and scam installers associated with this threat.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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