Category Archives: Emotet

Cyber Security Roundup for November 2020

A roundup of UK focused Cyber and Information Security News, Blog Posts, Reports and general Threat Intelligence from the previous calendar month, October 2020.

London's Hackney Borough Council has been tight-lipped about "a serious cyber-attack" which took down its IT systems, impacting its service delivery to citizens. Providing scant information about the attack, but it does have all the hallmarks of a ransomware outbreak. The council says it is working with the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the Ministry of Housing to investigate and understand the impact of the incident. Ransomware attacks continue to be a major blight for UK public services, with councils to hospitals struggling to defend their IT systems against ransomware. Earlier this year Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council said it had been hit by a ransomware attack, which cost it more than £10m.

It looks like the ransomware will continue to pose a major threat to the UK for some time to come, with separate reports advising a resurgence in the Emotet trojan, a common dropper of ransomware, while the hacking group behind the notorious Ryuk ransomware has been reported as being active again. A new variant of the Ryuk ransomware was behind a cyberattack on Sopra Steria’s operations in October 2020, the digital services company confirmed.

British Airways had it credit card breach DPA fine cut by a massive £163m to £20m by the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which imposed the original fine after the now pandemic financially beleaguered airline lost 430,000 payment card details to hackers after an e-commence skimming attack in 2018

 BA lost 430,000 payment card details to hackers after Magecart e-commence skimming attack in 2018
This data breach was a lesson in failing at PCI DSS compliance, with customer credit card details stolen due to ‘Magecart’ payment card skimming script being injected onto the BA payment page. The attackers initially compromised the BA network through a third-party worker’s remote access (not MFA protected), gaining access to BA's Citrix environment. Once inside the BA network, the attackers were gifted privilege level access after finding a domain admin account username and password in plaintext on a server folder. I understand investigators found the storage of payment cards in plaintext, including CVV numbers post-payment authorisation which is never permitted under PCI DSS rules. Aside from the ICO fine and reputational damage, this breach cost is likely to have cost BA a small fortune in specialised PCI PFI digital investigation forensic work, a complete solution rebuild, and with card brand penalties. The Visa Chief Enterprise Risk Officer once said ‘no compromised entity has yet been found to be in compliance with PCI DSS at the time of a breach’, I understand that statement still rings true today.

The ICO didn't hold back in dishing a massive DPA (GDPR) fine to the Marriott Hotels chain to the tune of £18.4m after a major data breach which affected up to 7 million UK guests. The ICO reported UK citizen names, contact information, and passport details were compromised in the cyber-attack. The ICO also said the company failed to put appropriate safeguards in place but acknowledged it had improved.

Meanwhile, the UK NCSC released an advisory which repeated an earlier United States warning that Chinese Threat Actors are exploiting well-known software vulnerabilities. The advisory details 25 top vulnerabilities that are being exploited whilst offering mitigation advice. Many of the vulnerabilities allow attackers to gain access to a victim’s network by exploiting products directly connected to the internet. The NSA has also produced a nice infographic breaking the 25 vulnerabilities down by threat.


Stay safe and secure.

BLOG

NEWS
AWARENESS, EDUCATION AND THREAT INTELLIGENCE

    Beating the Emotet Malware with SSL Interception

    Guest post by Adrian Taylor, Regional VP of Sales for A10 Networks  

    The Emotet trojan recently turned from a major cybersecurity threat to a laughingstock when its payloads were replaced by harmless animated GIFs. Taking advantage of a weakness in the way Emotet malware components were stored, white-hat hackers donned their vigilante masks and sabotaged the operations of the recently revived cyberthreat. While highly effective as well as somewhat humorous, the incident should not distract attention from two unavoidable truths. 
    First, while the prank deactivated about a quarter of all Emotet malware payload downloads, the botnet remains a very real, ongoing threat and a prime vector for attacks such as ransomware. And second, relying on one-off operations by whimsical vigilantes is hardly a sustainable security strategy. To keep the remaining active Emotet botnets—and countless other cyber threats—out of their environment, organisations need to rely on more robust and reliable measures based on SSL interception (SSL inspection) and SSL decryption.

    History of Emotet and the threat it presents
    First identified in 2014, version one of Emotet was designed to steal bank account details by intercepting internet traffic. A short time after, a new version of the software was detected. This version, dubbed Emotet version two, came packaged with several modules, including a money transfer system, malspam module, and a banking module that targeted German and Austrian banks. Last year, we saw reports of a botnet-driven spam campaign targeting German, Polish, Italian, and English victims with craftily worded subject lines like “Payment Remittance Advice” and “Overdue Invoice.” Opening the infected Microsoft Word document initiates a macro, which in turn downloads Emotet from compromised WordPress sites.

    After a relative quiet start to 2020, the Emotet trojan resurfaced suddenly with a surge of activity in mid-July. This time around, the botnet’s reign of terror took an unexpected turn when the payloads its operators had stored on – poorly secured WordPress sites – were replaced with a series of popular GIFs. Instead of being alerted of a successful cyberattack, the respective targets received nothing more alarming than an image of Blink 182, James Franco, or Hackerman.

    Whilst this is all in good fun, the question remains: what if the white hats had left their masks in the drawer instead of taking on the Emotet trojan? And what about the countless other malware attacks that continue unimpeded, delivering their payloads as intended?

    A view into the encryption blind spot with SSL interception (SSL inspection)
    Malware attacks such as Emotet often take advantage of a fundamental flaw in internet security. To protect data, most companies routinely rely on SSL encryption or TLS encryption. This practice is highly effective for preventing spoofing, man-in-the-middle attacks, and other common exploits from compromising data security and privacy. Unfortunately, it also creates an ideal hiding place for hackers. To security devices inspecting inbound communications for threats, encrypted traffic appears as gibberish—including malware. In fact, more than half of the malware attacks seen today are using some form of encryption. As a result, the SSL encryption blind spot ends up being a major hole in the organisation’s defence strategy.

    The most obvious way to address this problem would be to decrypt traffic as it arrives to enable SSL inspection before passing it along to its destination within the organisation—an approach known as SSL interception. But here too, problems arise. For one thing, some types of data are not allowed to be decrypted, such as the records of medical patients governed by privacy standards like HIPAA, making across-the-board SSL decryption unsuitable. And for any kind of traffic, SSL decryption can greatly degrade the performance of security devices while increasing network latency, bottlenecks, cost, and complexity. Multiply these impacts by the number of components in the typical enterprise security stack—DLP, antivirus, firewall, IPS, and IDS—and the problem becomes clear.

    How efficient SSL inspection saves the day
    With many organisations relying on distributed per-hop SSL decryption. A single SSL inspection solution can provide the best course of action by decrypting traffic across all TCP ports and advanced protocols like SSH, STARTTLS, XMPP, SMTP and POP3. Also, this solution helps provide network traffic visibility to all security devices, including inline, out-of-band and ICAP-enabled devices.

    Whilst we should celebrate the work of the white hats who restrained Emotet, it is not every day that a lethal cyber threat becomes a matter of humour. But having had a good laugh at their expense, we should turn our attention to making sure that attacks like Emotet have no way to succeed in the future—without the need to count on vigilante justice - this is where SSL inspection can really save the day.