EU to Declare Cyber-Attacks “Act of War” – USA Likely to Follow 

European Union member states have drafted a diplomatic document which states serious cyber-attacks by a foreign nation could be construed as an act of war.

The document developed as a deterrent to provocations by nation states like Russia and North Korea, will declare that member states may respond to online attacks with conventional weapons “in the gravest circumstances.”

This framework on a joint EU diplomatic response to malicious cyber activities would seem to raise the stakes significantly on state-sponsored attacks, especially those focused on critical infrastructure.

UK security minister Ben Wallace claimed last week that the UK government is “as sure as possible” that North Korea was behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May that crippled over a third of NHS England, forcing the cancellation of thousands of operations and appointments.

The problem is that definitive attribution in cyberspace is very difficult, making the framework appear largely symbolic.

It brings the EU in line with NATO policy in the past, establishing cyber as a legitimate military domain, meaning an online attack could theoretically trigger Article 5, the part of its treaty related to collective defense, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all 29 allies.

McAfee chief scientist, Raj Samani, claimed the move was unsurprising considering WannaCry and the likely state-backed attacks on French and German elections.

“While it is important to define cyber-attacks that are used for espionage or disruption as they would be when committed by physical actors, the greatest challenge that countries have will be in identifying and proving that the malicious actors that caused the cyber-attack have direct links to governmental organizations – something that these groups will be even more keen to conceal going forward,” he added.”

I’m expecting the USA to follow with a similar statement, to function as an additional deterrent against the recent spate of Russian and North Korean incursions.

The vast majority of Russia’s attacks start with social engineering and spear phishing attacks. However, current investigations show that they also have been running paid propaganda campaigns through Facebook.

Full blog post with links to sources:
https://blog.knowbe4.com/eu-to-declare-cyber-attacks-act-of-war.-usa-likely-to-follow

2018 Is Likely to Be a Worse Year for Ransomware Than 2017

Sophos released their 2018 malware forecast this week. Their predictions would make any IT Pro concerned, link to a PDF of their report below. Read on for your executive summary.

Ransomware Mutations Running Amok

You have seen a lot in this blog this year about the WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware strains. Both attacks exploited the EternalBlue Windows SMB vulnerability, and both did not have workable decryption mechanisms for the few organizations desperate enough to try to pay the ransom.

Both incidents make one thing clear: WannaCry and NotPetya appear to be the work of military cyber warfare divisions. Their authors aren’t script kiddies, but professional Dev teams using sophisticated techniques. Nation states are fighting a cold cyber war, and both commercial and non-profit organizations are the collateral damage worldwide.

RaaS Is for Newbie Cyber Crims

There is an area where amateur cyber “crims” do come in, and that’s Ransomware as a Service, aka RaaS. Newbies without l33t skills simply buy the code on the dark web including easy how-to videos.

Sophos says that RaaS is growing in popularity on the Dark Web, and this year’s Cerber ransomware is their example of a worrisome trend. Here’s some of what it says in the report that specifically pertains to RaaS:

“Ransomware is big business on the Dark Web. Its creators realized they could make more money not just by extorting currency from their victims, but by selling kits buyers could use to make and distribute their own. We’ve seen a number of different services and pricing models in the past year, and expect to see many more in 2018.

One of the biggest examples, as mentioned above, is Cerber. Other examples include Satan, malicious software that once opened in a Windows system, encrypts all the files and demands a ransom for the decryption tools, and Philadelphia. The latter was notable for its marketing technique, which included a slick YouTube video advertisement on the open web.”

New “Marketing” Techniques

Sophos reports on an additional ransomware trend they found in a malware strain called Spora. Instead of demanding one ransom to decrypt an entire encrypted drive or partition, some ransomware offers victims multiple options. The options seen in Spora are:

  • Decrypt two files for nothing
  • Decrypt a selection of files for 30.00 dollars
  • Have the ransomware itself removed for 20.00 dollars
  • Buy what they call immunity for 50.00 dollars
  • Get everything on the computer restored for 120.00 dollars

Ransomware Is Now Targeting Non-Win OSen

September 2013 was when CryptoLocker reared its ugly head as the first weapons-grade ransomware that exclusively targeted Windows, which remains Target No. 1.

But Sophos notices a trend of ransomware targeting non-Windows operating systems. I would not be surprised if in 2018 a worldwide MacOS or Linux distro ransomware pandemic broke out.

Ransomware is also growing rapidly on Android. Sophos reported that the prevalence of Android ransomware has grown almost every month in 2017; 30.4% of the Android malware researched in September 2017 by Sophos was ransomware, and they expect that 45% of all Android malware in October was ransomware.

One of the biggest Android ransomware stories broke this October: DoubleLocker. Looks like Android ransomware is going to be a bigger problem in 2018.

Healthcare Continues to Be a Target.

Many cyber criminals are specifically targeting the healthcare industry. Sophos states this trend started in 2016. Healthcare is the single most targeted industry because they are the victims who are most likely to pay ransoms. The Sophos report shows that critical infrastructure, education and small businesses also are often targeted for ransomware attacks, as they’re more likely to pay up as well.

Between April 1st and October 3rd, Sophos notes that the top four countries for ransomware victims are the United States (17.2%), Great Britain (11.1%), Belgium (8.6%), and Singapore (6.5%.) And of course neither Ukraine or Russia even show up in the Top 16, because that’s where these organized cyber crime gangs are, and they know that FSB (KGB) swat teams will knock down their doors if they target these countries.

ZDNet also has predictions about the nasty future of ransomware with four ways the nightmare is about to get even worse:
http://www.zdnet.com/article/the-nasty-future-of-ransomware-four-ways-the-nightmare-is-about-to-get-even-worse/

From the Cyberheist News blog.

New Evil Locky Ransomware Strain Evades Machine Learning Security Software

ransomwareHere is the latest tactic in the cat-and-mouse game between cybercrime and security software vendors. The bad guys have come up with new a ransomware phishing attack, tricking users to open what appears to be a document scanned from an internal Konica Minolta C224e.

This model is one of the most popular business scanner/printers in the world. The emails are written to make the user think that the communication is from a vendor.

Basically, Locky is back with a vengeance and a whole new bag of evil tricks.

The campaign launched Sept. 18 features a sophisticated new wrinkle, enabling it to slip past many of the machine learning algorithm-based software sold by some of the industry’s most popular vendors, said security firm Comodo.

“The method of phishing is by an attachment of an email; the attachment is disguised as a printer output, and it contains a script inside an archive file,” said Fatih Orhan, vice president of Comodo Threat Research Labs. “These are not enough to make a phishing detection.”

This is the third recent massive Locky attack

The third in an increasingly sophisticated series of ransomware attacks launched this summer is dubbed IKARUS by Comodo, some other security vendors are calling it Locky Diablo6.

As in previous attacks, the Eastern European Locky cyber mafia is using a botnet of zombie computers which makes it hard to simply block by IP.

“Employees today scan original documents at the company scanner/printer and email them to themselves and others as a standard practice, so this malware-laden email looks quite innocent but is anything but harmless,” the report continues.

The most innovative hook of this new feature involves the way these criminal hackers manage to evade spam filters.

Here is how it evades machine learning

“Machine learning algorithms need to extract the attachment, open the archive, extract the script and understand it has a malicious intent,” said Orhan, the Comodo research head. “But usually, these scripts contain just a download component and do not have malicious intent on their own.”

“That’s why even machine learning is not sufficient in making these kind of detections,” he continued. “Complex solutions are needed to run the script dynamically, download actual payload, and perform malware analysis to conclude that it is phishing.”

In other words, it looks like that again the bad guys are ahead of your spam filters, whether that is a traditional or new machine-learning flavor.

Now, the Locky payload still ultimately uses an executable file written to disk, so your endpoint security may be able to block it. There are other types of attacks that take advantage of machine learning blind spots (fileless attacks, for example), but this isn’t one of them. What the bad guys behind Locky count on is cranking out so many new variants that antivirus (even some machine learning ones) won’t recognize and block it.

How vulnerable is your network against a ransomware attack?

Bad guys are constantly coming out with new strains to evade detection. Is your network effective in blocking all of them when employees fall for social engineering attacks?

KnowBe4’s “RanSim” gives you a quick look at the effectiveness of your existing network protection. RanSim will simulate 10 infection scenarios and show you if a workstation is vulnerable to infection.

This will take you 5 minutes and may give you some insights you never expected! Get your complimentary download of RanSim here:
https://info.knowbe4.com/ransomware-simulator-tool-1chn

Scam of the Week: Equifax Phishing Attacks

You already know that a whopping 143 million Equifax records were compromised. The difference with this one is that a big-three credit bureau like Equifax tracks so much personal and sometimes confidential information like social security numbers, full names, addresses, birth dates, and even drivers licenses and credit card numbers for some.

It can be the difference between being able to buy a house or sometimes even get a job or not. This breach and the way they handled it, including the announcement, was what Brian Krebs rightfully called a dumpster fire.

The problem is that with this much personal information in the hands of the bad guys, highly targeted spear phishing attacks can be expected, and a variety of other related crime like full-on identity theft on a much larger scale.

These records are first going to be sold on the dark web to organized crime for premium prices, for immediate exploitation, sometimes by local gangs on the street. Shame on Equifax for this epic fail. They will be sued for billions of dollars for this web-app vulnerability.

So this Scam of the Week covers what is inevitable in the near future, we have not seen actual Equifax phishing attacks at this point yet, but you can expect them in the coming days and weeks because the bad guys are going to take their most efficient way to leverage this data… email.

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

“Cyber criminals have stolen 143 million credit records in the recent hacking scandal at big-three credit bureau Equifax. At this point you have to assume that the bad guys 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 Equifax 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:

  • First sign up for credit monitoring (there are many companies providing that service including Equifax but we cannot recommend that)
  • 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: http://consumersunion.org/research/security-freeze/
  • Check your credit reports via the free www.annualcreditreport.com 
  • Check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity
  • 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: www.idtheftcenter.org. You can also call the center’s toll-free number (888-400-5530) for advice on how to resolve identify-theft issues. All of the center’s services are free.

And as always, Think Before You Click!

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