The Top 5 Reasons Why You Need To Deploy New-school Security Awareness Training In 2018

Excerpted from CyberheistNews Vol 7 #50

2017 was a dumpster fire of privacy and security screw-ups.

To start 2018 with a simple, effective, IT security strategy is an excellent New Year’s resolution and helps your CEO to keep their job. Better yet, thousands of your peers will tell you this was the best and most fun IT security budget they ever spent… hands-down.

This list is the high-power ammo you need to get budget and roll out new-school security awareness training, ideally right now.

Here are the Top 5 reasons…

  1. Social Engineering is the No. 1 go-to strategy for the bad guys. Unfortunately, their time is money too. Why spend 2 months of research uncovering a 0-day when you (literally) can create an effective spear-phishing attack in 2 hours? They are going after the human—the weakest link in IT security—and your last line of defense.
  2. Ransomware is only going to get worse in 2018. Email is still their favorite attack vector, and their sophistication is increasing by the month. The downtime caused by ransomware can be massive.
  3. Compliance requirements for awareness training are being sharpened up. Thinking that today you can get away with a yearly one-time, old-school awareness training session is whistling past the graveyard. A good example is May 25, 2018 when enforcement actions for GDPR begin. We have compliance training for GDPR ready in 24 languages.
  4. Legally you are required to act “reasonably” and take “necessary” measures to cope with a threat. If you don’t, you violate either compliance laws, regulations, or recent case law. Your organization must take into account today’s social engineering risks and “scale security measures to reflect the threat”. Don’t trust me, confirm with your lawyer, and next insist on getting budget. Today, data breaches cause practically instant class action lawsuits. And don’t even talk about all employees filing a class action against your own company because your W-2 forms were exfiltrated with CEO fraud.
  5. Board members’ No. 1 focus today is cyber security. Some very pointed questions will be asked if they read in the Wall Street Journal that your customer database was hacked and the breach data is being sold on the dark web. Once it becomes clear that your organization did not deploy a simple, effective strategy that could have prevented this, a few (highly placed) heads will roll. Target’s CEO and CISO are just an example. Help your CEO to keep their job.

Former US CISO on Why Awareness Training Is Priority Number 1:

In an information technology environment where personnel are on the cyber front line at work and also at the house, the key to ensuring security is still awareness training, says former U.S. CISO Gregory Touhill, who was the Air Force General responsible for Cyber Training before he became the first US CISO.

“A congressman asked me when I took my post as the first federal CISO: ‘If I gave you an extra dollar, how would you spend it on cybersecurity?’ And I told him I would spend it on better training my people. I find a very well-trained, well-informed workforce is better prepared to help an organization buy down their cyber risk,” Touhill says in an interview with Information Security Media Group.

Training at All Levels

Touhill calls for daily security drills and exercises at all levels of an organization to help reinforce defensive strategies.

“Board and C-suite officers are increasingly large targets for whale phishing,” Touhill says. “Everybody has a stake in cybersecurity and I would contend everyone is on cyber front lines. That training needs to be tailored and continuous for the entire workforce.”

Touhill discusses:

  • The effectiveness of techniques such as gamification;
  • Why he believes one-and-done annual training fails;
  • Continuous phishing training;
  • His recommendations for improving training in 2018.

Touhill is now president of the Cyxtera Federal Group and teaches cybersecurity and risk management for the CISO certification program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College.

Scam of the Week: New Massive Data Breach Poses Major Threat

Here’s a fun question to pose to the family dinner table: Have you ever heard of Alteryx?

100 to 1 you never heard of them, but chances are good that they have heard of you. Alteryx is a data analytics company that makes its money by repackaging data that it’s collected from different sources. And it became the latest reminder of how much data little-known companies have collected on us – and how little oversight there is over the security of that data.

Companies You’ve Never Heard of Are Exposing Your Personal Data

Earlier this week, an analyst from the security firm Upguard shared that Alteryx had not properly protected detailed information it had collected on 123 million U.S. households (All told, there are about 126 million American households, according to the Census Bureau.)

This data leak was discovered by a researcher, and not (we hope) by a criminal. But the leak affects about as many people as the massive hack Equifax reported in September, which affected 145.5 million Americans, or nearly every adult.

Another Leaky AWS Bucket

The data had been left unprotected in an Amazon Web Services storage bucket available to anyone with a free AWS account. After being informed of the data breach, Alteryx secured the information, however, it had been available to identity thieves and scammers for a considerable period of time.

Alteryx and credit reporting agency Experian—which was the source of the data—both downplayed the risk of identity theft because no names were included in the data included in the data breach. This response is just PR and disingenuous as 248 data fields for every household were included in the data breach which are easy to map to the names.

This is just another example of the lack of important laws in the United States protecting people from data aggregators’ negligence and requiring these companies to employ security measures to protect our personal data. Many other countries require such measures by law, the new European GDPR is an excellent example.

What to Do About It

I suggest you send the following to your employees, friends, and family. You’re welcome to copy, paste, and/or edit:

“There is another major data breach, that pretty much covers every living adult in the United States. At this point you have to assume that cyber criminals have highly personal information that they can use to trick you. You need to watch out for the following things:

  • Phishing emails that claim to be from your financial institution where you can “check if your data was compromised”
  • Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information
  • Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union
  • Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen

Here are 5 things you can do to prevent identity theft:

  1. First sign up for credit monitoring – dozens of companies do that.
  2. Next freeze your credit files at the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Remember that generally it is not possible to sign up for credit monitoring services after a freeze is in place. Advice for how to file a freeze is available here on a state-by-state basis:
  3. Check your credit reports via the free
  4. Check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity
  5. If you believe you may have been the victim of identity theft, here is a site where you can learn more about how to protect yourself:

Quotes of the Week

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.” – Terry Pratchett

“Here is an example of a young man gaining wisdom by experience. LOL:”


Bad Rabbit: Ten things you need to know about the latest ransomware outbreak


It’s the third major outbreak of the year – here’s what we know so far.


A new ransomware campaign has hit a number of high profile targets in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Dubbed Bad Rabbit, the ransomware first started infecting systems on Tuesday 24 October, and the way in which organisations appear to have been hit simultaneously immediately drew comparisons to this year’s WannaCry and Petya epidemics.

Following the initial outbreak, there was some confusion about what exactly Bad Rabbit is. Now the initial panic has died down, however, it’s possible to dig down into what exactly is going on.

1. The cyber-attack has hit organisations across Russia and Eastern Europe

Organisations across Russian and Ukraine — as well as a small number in Germany, and Turkey — have fallen victim to the ransomware. Researchers at Avast say they’ve also detected the malware in Poland and South Korea.

Russian cybersecurity company Group-IB confirmed at least three media organisations in the country have been hit by file-encrypting malware, while at the same time Russian news agency Interfax said its systems have been affected by a “hacker attack” — and were seemingly knocked offline by the incident.

Other organisations in the region including Odessa International Airport and the Kiev Metro also made statements about falling victim to a cyber-attack, while CERT-UA, the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine, also posted that the “possible start of a new wave of cyberattacks to Ukraine’s information resources” had occurred, as reports of Bad Rabbit infections started to come in.

At the time of writing, it’s thought there are almost 200 infected targets and indicating that this isn’t an attack like WannaCry or Petya was — but it’s still causing problems for infected organisations.

“The total prevalence of known samples is quite low compared to the other “common” strains,” said Jakub Kroustek, malware analyst at Avast.

2. It’s definitely ransomware

Those unfortunate enough to fall victim to the attack quickly realised what had happened because the ransomware isn’t subtle — it presents victims with a ransom note telling them their files are “no longer accessible” and “no one will be able to recover them without our decryption service”.

Bad Rabbit ransom note.Image: ESET

Victims are directed to a Tor payment page and are presented with a countdown timer. Pay within the first 40 hours or so, they’re told, and the payment for decrypting files is 0.05 bitcoin — around $285. Those who don’t pay the ransom before the timer reaches zero are told the fee will go up and they’ll have to pay more.

Bad Rabbit payment page.Image: Kaspersky Lab

The encryption uses DiskCryptor, which is open source legitimate and software used for full drive encryption. Keys are generated using CryptGenRandom and then protected by a hardcoded RSA 2048 public key.

3. It’s based on Petya/Not Petya

If the ransom note looks familiar, that’s because it’s almost identical to the one victims of June’s Petya outbreak saw. The similarities aren’t just cosmetic either — Bad Rabbit shares behind-the-scenes elements with Petya too.

Analysis by researchers at Crowdstrike has found that Bad Rabbit and NotPetya’s DLL (dynamic link library) share 67 percent of the same code, indicating the two ransomware variants are closely related, potentially even the work of the same threat actor.

4. It spreads via a fake Flash update on compromised websites

The main way Bad Rabbit spreads is drive-by downloads on hacked websites. No exploits are used, rather visitors to compromised websites — some of which have been compromised since June — are told that they need to install a Flash update. Of course, this is no Flash update, but a dropper for the malicious install.

A compromised website asking a user to install a fake Flash update which distributes Bad Rabbit.Image: ESET

Infected websites — mostly based in Russia, Bulgaria, and Turkey — are compromised by having JavaScript injected in their HTML body or in one of their .js files.

5. It can spread laterally across networks…

Much like Petya, Bad Rabbit comes with a potent trick up its sleeve in that it contains an SMB component which allows it to move laterally across an infected network and propagate without user interaction, say researchers at Cisco Talos.

What aids Bad Rabbit’s ability to spread is a list of simple username and password combinations which it can exploit to brute-force its way across networks. The weak passwords list consists of a number of the usual suspects for weak passwords such as simple number combinations and ‘password’.

6. … but it doesn’t use EternalBlue

When Bad Rabbit first appeared, some suggested that like WannaCry, it exploited the EternalBlue exploit to spread. However, this now doesn’t appear to be the case.

“We currently have no evidence that the EternalBlue exploit is being utilized to spread the infection,” Martin Lee, Technical Lead for Security Research at Talos told ZDNet.

7. It may not be indiscriminate

At the same point following the WannaCry outbreak, hundreds of thousands of systems around the world had fallen victim to ransomware. However, Bad Rabbit doesn’t appear to indiscriminately infecting targets, rather researchers have suggested that it only infects selected targets.

“Our observations suggest that this been a targeted attack against corporate networks,” said Kaspersky Lab researchers.

Meanwhile, researchers at ESET say instructions in the script injected into infected websites “can determine if the visitor is of interest and then add content to the page” if the target is deemed suitable for infection.

However, at this stage, there’s no obvious reason why media organisations and infrastructure in Russia and Ukraine has been specifically targeted in this attack.

8. It isn’t clear who is behind it

At this time, it’s still unknown who is distributing the ransomware or why, but the similarity to Petya has led some researchers to suggest that Bad Rabbit is by the same attack group — although that doesn’t help identify the attacker or the motive either, because the perpetrator of June’s epidemic has never been identified.

What marks this attack out is how it has primarily infected Russia – Eastern Europe cybercriminal organisations tend to avoid attacking the ‘motherland’, indicating this unlikely to be a Russian group.

9. It contains Game of Thrones references

Whoever it behind Bad Rabbit, they appear to be a fan of Game of Thrones: the code contains references to Viserion, Drogon, and Rhaegal, the dragons which feature in television series and the novels it is based on. The authors of the code are therefore not doing much to change the stereotypical image of hackers being geeks and nerds.

References to Game of Thrones dragons in the code.Image: Kaspersky Lab

10. You can protect yourself against becoming infected by it

At this stage, it’s unknown if it’s possible to decrypt files locked by Bad Rabbit without giving in and paying the ransom – although researchers say that those who fall victim shouldn’t pay the fee, as it will only encourage the growth of ransomware.

A number of security vendors say their products protect against Bad Rabbit. But for those who want to be sure they don’t potentially fall victim to the attack, Kaspersky Lab says users can block the execution of file ‘c: \ windows \ infpub.dat, C: \ Windows \ cscc.dat.’ in order to prevent infection.


Bad Rabbit ransomware: A new variant of Petya is spreading, warn researchers

Updated: Organisations in Russia, Ukraine and other countries have fallen victim to what is thought to be a new variant of ransomware.


After quietly infecting a million devices, Reaper botnet set to be worse than Mirai

Reaper is on track to become one of the largest botnets recorded in recent years — and yet nobody seems to know what it will do or when. But researchers say the damage could be bigger than last year’s cyberattack.

(Image: file photo)

A little over a month ago, a sizable botnet of infected Internet of Things devices began appearing on the radar of security researchers.

Now, just weeks later, it’s on track to become one of the largest botnets recorded in recent years.

The botnet, dubbed “Reaper” by researchers at Netlab 360, is said to have ensnared almost two million internet-connected webcams, security cameras, and digital video recorders (DVRs) in the past month, says Check Point, which also published research, putting its growth at a far faster pace than Mirai.

It was Mirai that caused a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack last October, knocking popular websites off the internet for millions of users. The collective bandwidth from the huge number of “zombie devices” that were infected and enslaved was directed at Dyn, an internet infrastructure company, which overloaded the company’s systems and prevented millions from accessing popular websites.

Mirai was “beautifully simple,” said Ken Munro, a consultant at UK-based security firm Pen Test Partners. The malware would scan the internet and infect connected devices with default usernames and passwords, which either weren’t or couldn’t be changed by the owner.

 Reaper, however, “is what Mirai could easily have been,” said Munro. It takes a slightly different, more advanced approach by quietly targeting and exploiting known vulnerabilities in devices and injecting its malicious code, effectively hijacking the device for whenever the botnet controller is ready to issue their commands. Each time a device is infected, the device spreads the malware to other vulnerable devices — like a worm.

Mirai aggressively ran each device against a list of known usernames and passwords, but Reaper is “not very aggressive,” said Netlab.

By targeting a known vulnerability, the botnet can swiftly take control of a device without raising any alarms.

“One of the reasons Mirai didn’t achieve its full potential is that the compromise didn’t persist beyond a reboot,” said Munro. “Hence, multiple botnet herders were competing for control of the compromised DVRs that comprised it, so the huge botnet it could have been was never built,” he said.

Netlab said at the time of publishing their research that the botnet was infecting nine known vulnerabilities in D-Link, Netgear, and AVTech products, as well as other device makers.

Not only has the botnet gained in size in the past month — it’s growing in capability. New exploits have been added to the botnet’s arsenal regularly in recent days, said Netlab. Check Point said 33 devices are vulnerable to attack so far. Researchers have also noted that several known, easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities have not been added to the botnet, raising questions about why some exploits have been added and not others.

But what’s thrown researchers is that nobody can figure out what the botnet is for.

While the Mirai botnet was a point-and-shoot botnet that could be used to hose systems with vast amounts of bandwidth, Reaper can be used to run complex attack scripts on infected devices. Reaper’s command and control infrastructure is also growing in size, accommodating more infected devices by the day. Netlab said 10,000 bots were under the wing of just one command and control server.

So far, there haven’t been any signs of DDoS attacks yet. The botnet creator (“it appears that one group or individual has control of most of it,” said Munro), is focusing on building the botnet’s size. As it stands, Reaper’s size today could be capable of “creating significantly more DDoS traffic than Mirai,” said Munro.

It’s not the first time botnets of a massive scale have crept up on security researchers.

Earlier this year, a 300,000-strong botnet appeared almost out of nowhere, but researchers couldn’t figure out what it did — if anything.

A breakdown of the Reaper botnet shows that the malware that infects devices allows the botnet owner to remotely execute code on each device, said Alan Woodward, a professor at the University of Surrey. But because each device has such little individual computational power, the code running on each device would have to be harnessed collectively for a larger, coordinated computing task, he said.

That could be anything from a DDoS on an internet target, to a much larger kind of attack.

“The aggregation of large numbers of the same Internet of Things (IoT) device leads to systemic issues,” said Munro. “When it’s one device affecting one home, it’s irritating for the consumer, but when it’s a million devices, deeper problems arise.”

“For example, any IoT device that switches a lot of electrical power gives rise to potential to affect the electricity grid,” he said.

“Whether it’s a smart kettle, a smart thermostat switching your air conditioning or solar panels — all switch power,” he said. “Trigger a million devices that switch 3kW concurrently and the power grid fails.”

What happens next is anybody’s guess.

“Everyone is expecting it to pounce, but so far nothing,” said Woodward. There isn’t much that consumers or device owners can do, except patch any affected devices they may own and carry out a factory reset.

Given that device owners are at the mercy of the manufacturers to release patches — many of which haven’t learned much from the Mirai attack and still don’t take security seriously — many may find that simply pulling the plug on each and every affected device might be the only way to dismantle the botnet.

With enough amassed firepower to be larger and stronger than Mirai, the question isn’t necessarily what the botnet will do.

“The question is whether it gets used in anger,” said Munro.

Say “yes” to HTTPS: Chrome secures the web, one site at a time


Editor’s note: October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and we’re celebrating with a series of security announcements this week. 

Security has always been one of Chrome’s core principles—we constantly work to build the most secure web browser to protect our users. Two recent studies concluded that Chrome was the most secure web browser in multiple aspects of security, with high rates of catching dangerous and deceptive sites, lightning-fast patching of vulnerabilities, and multiple layers of defenses.

About a year ago, we announced that we would begin marking all sites that are not encrypted with HTTPS as “not secure” in Chrome. We wanted to help people understand when the site they’re on is not secure, and at the same time, provide motivation to that site’s owner to improve the security of their site. We knew this would take some time, and so we started by only marking pages without encryption that collect passwords and credit cards. In the next phase, we began showing the “not secure” warning in two additional situations: when people enter data on an HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode.

http search

It’s only been a year, but HTTPS usage has already made some incredible progress.

  • 64 percent of Chrome traffic on Android is now protected, up from 42 percent a year ago.
  • Over 75 percent of Chrome traffic on both ChromeOS and Mac is now protected, up from 60 percent on Mac and 67 percent on Chrome OS a year ago
  • 71 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default, up from 37 a year ago
percentage of page loads over HTTPS in Chrome by platform
Percent of page loads over HTTPS in Chrome by platform

We’re also excited to see HTTPS usage increasing around the world. For example, we’ve seen HTTPS usage surge recently in Japan; large sites like RakutenCookpadAmeblo, and Yahoo Japan all made major headway towards HTTPS in 2017. Because of this, we’ve seen HTTPS in Japan surge from 31 percent to 55 percent in the last year, measured via Chrome on Windows. We see similar upward trends in other regions—HTTPS is up from 50 percent to 66 percent in Brazil, and 59 percent to 73 percent in the U.S.!

Ongoing efforts to bring encryption to everyone

HTTPS is easier and cheaper than ever before, and it enables both the best performance the web offers and powerful new features that are too sensitive for HTTP. There’s never been a better time to get your site secured by Spearhead Multimedia

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