US senators have proposed a bill that would drastically reform the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency (NSA) and increase oversight of government surveillance.
Titled The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act, the bill was introduced on Thursday by Senators Ron Wyden, Zoe Lofgren, Pramila Jayapal, Warren Davidson, and Steve Daines.
According to a statement on Wyden's website, the changes proposed in the bill will "protect Americans’ rights against unnecessary government surveillance."
The bill comes ahead of the March 15 expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the National Security Agency "used to create a secret mass surveillance program that swept up millions of Americans’ phone calls." The phone record program was terminated last year.
The bill prohibits the "warrantless collection of cell site location and GPS information as well as browsing history and internet search history and ensures that the government cannot conduct collection for intelligence purposes that would violate the Fourth Amendment in the criminal context."
Furthermore, the bill aims to establish the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process as the only process by which the government is allowed to carry out surveillance. By doing this, the bill intends to close what it describes as "secret law" loopholes that have allowed the US government to clandestinely conduct surveillance outside the FISA process in the past.
Other reforms proposed by the bill are the increase of congressional oversight of government surveillance activities with the addition of new public reporting requirements regarding Americans whose information has been collected under Sections 215 and 702 of the Patriot Act.
Commenting on the new bill, Jack Mannino, CEO at Virginia-based application security provider nVisium, said: "These are important steps towards protecting the civil liberties and Fourth Amendment rights of citizens. Intelligence agencies do important work, and it's necessary for them to be able to do their jobs, while preserving legal and moral boundaries. States, such as California, have passed legislation to protect internet privacy, and other states are quickly moving in the same direction. Overreaching surveillance erodes trust in the systems we use and our expectation of privacy."
A Canadian construction company that won military and government contracts worth millions of dollars has suffered a ransomware attack.
General contractor Bird Construction, which is based in Toronto, was allegedly targeted by cyber-threat group MAZE in December 2019. MAZE claims to have stolen 60 GB of data from the company, which landed 48 contracts worth $406m with Canada's Department of National Defense between 2006 and 2015.
In an email to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), a Bird Construction company spokesperson wrote: "Bird Construction responded to a cyber incident that resulted in the encryption of company files. Bird continued to function with no business impact, and we worked with leading cyber security experts to restore access to the affected files."
MAZE's modus operandi is to demand a ransom from its victim to secure the return of data that the group has stolen and encrypted. Victims are warned that failure to pay up will result in the data's publication. If a victim refuses to pay, MAZE's next move is typically to publish a small quantity of the data it claims to have stolen to show it means business.
According to Emsisoft threat analyst Brett Callow, MAZE has now published data it claims to have stolen from Bird Construction. The published files contain employees' personal data and information relating to Canadian company Suncor Energy, with which Bird Construction has worked on multiple projects.
Callow told Infosecurity Magazine: "Maze actually published some of Bird’s data. The files included documents relating to Suncor and records for a couple of Bird employees which included their names, home addresses, phone numbers, banking info, social insurance numbers, tax forms, health numbers, drug and alcohol test results—everything that a criminal would need to steal their identity. And all that info was posted on the clear web where anybody could’ve accessed it."
The published data, which Infosecurity Magazine has viewed, consisted of two large PDF files, each relating to a separate Bird Construction employee, plus documents detailing vehicle entry authorization and alcohol and drug testing procedures at Suncor.
Callow added: "The big question is: what else did MAZE get and did any of the data relate to Bird's government and military contracts?"
Bird Construction has not said whether a ransom was paid to its cyber-attackers. Callow advised any company that gets hit by ransomware not to pay up.
He said: "There is no way for a company to know that the data will be deleted after a ransom has been paid. In fact, it probably will not be deleted. Why would a criminal enterprise delete data that they may be able to use or monetize at a later date?"
Spring 2020 will see the launch of a new US cybersecurity resource designed to protect the space industry.
Space News reported last Thursday that the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or Space ISAC, is currently in the process of setting up an unclassified portal where companies can share and analyze information on cybersecurity threats. The portal will go live in the tail end of spring.
The activation of the portal will mark the official start of operations for Space ISAC, which was formally established in April 2019 as a nonprofit organization during a classified session at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The need to establish a Space ISAC to secure commercial, government, and military space communications from cyber-attacks on global space assets was recognized by the Science & Technology Partnership Forum in 2017. The Forum shared its vision for the organization’s conception in April 2018 at the 34th Space Symposium.
Space ISAC was founded initially by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions. Ten other companies have since joined as founding members, though some wish to keep their connection with the organization under wraps. Firms that have made their membership of Space ISAC public include Booz Allen Hamilton, SES, Parsons Corp, Lockheed Martin, and MITRE, which all joined as founding members.
The senior vice president of Kratos and chairman of the board for Space ISAC, Frank Backes, said that once the new portal is in operation, Space ISAC will work to recruit and vet potential members. The organization is hoping to sign up as many as 200 member companies from the civil, commercial, and national security space sectors.
Annual membership fees will be $10,000 for silver membership, $25,000 for gold, and $50,000 for platinum; however, the organization will consider offering lower rates to small enterprises and startups.
Along with the portal, Backes said that Space ISAC intends to set up a "space systems vulnerability laboratory" for NCC analysts and ISAC members at the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) in Colorado Springs.
Space ISAC plans to hold its first ever summit meeting at the NCC's Cyber Symposium in Denver on June 15 and 16 of this year.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is forcing a password reset for all online users after warning some that their data may have been compromised by a third party.
The UK’s national body for all things nautical appears to have moved quickly in response to the discovery.
“We have recently become aware that an unauthorized party accessed and may have acquired a database created in 2015 containing personal data associated with a number of RYA user accounts. The affected information included email addresses and RYA website passwords which were encrypted and therefore not visible,” it explained.
“The affected information included name, email and hashed passwords — the majority held with the salted hash function, which is used to secure passwords. The affected data did not include any financial or payment information and in this stage in our investigation there is no evidence that this data has been misused — it was legacy test data and it appears that the unauthorized party who gained access to a hosted server subsequently deleted that database.”
Despite passwords being salted and hashed, the RYA is taking no chances and will require all web users to choose a new credential. It is also urging members to be on the lookout for potential phishing scams attempting to capitalize on the breach notification.
“Please note that any email from the RYA about this issue (subject: Important notification regarding RYA Account Security) does not contain attachments and does not request your personal data,” it clarified.
“If you receive an email about this issue which suggests you download an attachment, or asks you for information, the email was not sent by RYA and may be an attempt to steal your personal data.”
Several yachters took to an industry forum warning of such an attempt, until they were reassured that the breach notification email was genuine. Some expressed surprise at receiving the email as they aren’t RYA members, although their email address may have found its way onto the “test” database another way.
Both Chrome and Firefox administrators have had to take action recently to halt the spread of malware via extensions and add-ons.
Google developer advocate Simeon Vincent explained over the weekend that the Chrome Web Store team detected an increase in fraudulent activity earlier in the month attempting to exploit users of the popular browser.
“Due to the scale of this abuse, we have temporarily disabled publishing paid items. This is a temporary measure meant to stem this influx as we look for long-term solutions to address the broader pattern of abuse,” he continued.
“If you have paid extensions, subscriptions, or in app-purchases and have received a rejection for ‘Spam and Placement in the Store’ this month, this is most likely the cause.
Extension developers will not be allowed to update their offerings while these temporary measures last. Those who want to publish an item that has been rejected are urged to reply to the rejection email and request an appeal.
“You may be asked to republish your item, at which point the review should proceed normally. You must repeat this process for each new version while this measure is in place,” said Vincent.
Unfortunately for developers, there’s no immediate end in sight for these temporary measures.
“We are working to resolve this as quickly as possible, but we do not have a resolution timeline at the moment. Apologies for the inconvenience,” concluded Vincent.
The news comes as rival browser Firefox experiences its own security issues. Mozilla administrators have begun removing scores of dodgy add-ons from the Mozilla Add-on (AMO) portal, and disabling any found in existing browser deployments.
Many of those marked for attention are thought to have been executing code from remote servers, installing malware, deliberately hiding code or eavesdropping on user searches.
Over 120 banned add-ons appear to have been published by a single developer, 2Ring, and were removed for executing remote code — which is illegal according to Mozilla’s add-on rule book.
Reports have emerged of multiple attempts to exploit a Citrix vulnerability, delivering ransomware to enterprise victims including a German car manufacturer.
Citrix began patching the CVE-2019-19781 bug in its Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and Citrix Gateway products last week. If successfully exploited, it could allow an unauthenticated attacker to perform arbitrary code execution.
At the time, FireEye warned that attackers were exploiting the flaw to deploy a backdoor, named “NotRobin,” in order to maintain access to exposed systems.
In an update, the security vendor claimed on Friday that it had detected efforts to deploy coin miners and ransomware via exploits for the vulnerability.
It traced attacks on dozens of FireEye customers back to ransomware named “Ragnarok,” which appears to have been created in mid-January. The ransom note demands 1 Bitcoin ($8600) to decrypt one infected machine or five ($43,002) for all.
“FireEye continues to observe multiple actors who are currently seeking to take advantage of CVE-2019-19781. This post outlines one threat actor who is using multiple exploits to take advantage of vulnerable internal systems and move laterally inside the organization,” it concluded.
“Based on our initial observations, the ultimate intent may have been the deployment of ransomware, using the Gateway as a central pivot point.”
As FireEye mentioned, there appear to be multiple groups looking to exploit the Citrix flaw in ransomware attacks.
Researchers took to Twitter to reveal efforts by attackers using the Sodinokibi variant, also known as REvil. Victims include German car parts manufacturer Gedia Automotive Group.
“I examined the files #REvil posted from Gedia after they refused to pay the #ransomware. The interesting thing I discovered is that they obviously hacked Gedia via the #Citrix exploit,” explained @underthebreach. “My bet is that all recent targets were accessed via this exploit.”
The news comes after white hats pointed to a critical unpatched flaw in Pulse Secure VPN products as being behind the Travelex ransomware outage.
A Russian man has pleaded guilty to running an illegal online marketplace that sold stolen payment card credentials to criminals, who used them to make over $20m in fraudulent purchases.
Before a United States court, Aleksei Burkov admitted operating the Cardplanet website, which sold card data acquired through illegal computer intrusions. Many of the cards offered for sale belonged to United States citizens, with the result that over $20m in fraudulent purchases were made on American credit cards.
According to the Associated Press, prosecutors said Burkov offered a money-back guarantee to his customers if a stolen card number no longer worked.
The 29-year-old also pleaded guilty to running a second website that served as an invite-only club where elite cyber-criminals could advertise stolen goods and criminal services.
Items for sale on the site included personal identifying information, malicious software, and money laundering and hacking services.
"To obtain membership in Burkov’s cybercrime forum, prospective members needed three existing members to 'vouch' for their good reputation among cybercriminals and to provide a sum of money, normally $5,000, as insurance," said the Eastern District of Virginia US Attorney's Office.
"These measures were designed to keep law enforcement from accessing Burkov’s cybercrime forum and to ensure that members of the forum honored any deals made while conducting business on the forum."
Burkov was arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv in December 2015, and in 2017, an Israeli district court approved his extradition to the United States. Burkov was finally extradited to the United States from Israel on November 11, 2019, after appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court and the Israeli High Court of Justice were denied.
In front of Senior US District Judge T.S. Ellis, III, Burkov pleaded guilty to access device fraud and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, identity theft, wire and access device fraud, and money laundering.
Burkov faces a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison when sentenced on May 8.
Russian officials objected to Burkov's extradition from Israel. According to the Associated Press, Israeli officials have suggested Russia sought Burkov’s release by offering an exchange for Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old Israeli woman who received a seven-year prison sentence in Moscow for drug-related charges.
Warnings have been issued in the United States after cybersecurity flaws were detected in medical monitoring devices manufactured by GE Healthcare Systems (GEHC).
Safety notices were published yesterday by both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control Systems—Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) regarding vulnerabilities in certain clinical information central stations and telemetry servers.
Exploitable flaws in the ApexPro and CARESCAPE telemetry servers, in version 1 of the CARESCAPE Central Station, and in CIC Pro Clinical Information Center Central Station version 1 were discovered by CyberMDX.
The flawed devices are used mostly in health care facilities for displaying information regarding the physiologic parameters of a patient, such as heartbeat and blood pressure. They are also used to monitor the status of a patient from a central location in a facility, such as a nurse’s workstation.
The FDA said the vulnerabilities "may allow an attacker to remotely take control of the medical device and to silence alarms, generate false alarms and interfere with alarms of patient monitors connected to these devices."
ICS-CERT said that an attacker could use the flaws to obtain protected health information (PHI) data and to make the device unusable.
In a statement published yesterday, GEHC said: "In the instructions provided with the devices, GEHC requires that the MC and IX networks are properly configured and isolated from other hospital networks. If those instructions are not followed, a vulnerable situation can exist where an attacker could gain access to the MC and IX networks via the hospital network."
GEHC has published instructions for risk mitigation along with instructions on where to find software updates or patches when they become available.
The FDA said yesterday that it was "not aware of any adverse events related to this vulnerability," while also saying that such incidents may be extremely hard to detect.
"These vulnerabilities might allow an attack to happen undetected and without user interaction. Because an attack may be interpreted by the affected device as normal network communications, it may remain invisible to existing security measures," said the FDA.
In a statement published yesterday, GE Healthcare said: "There have been no reported incidences of a cyber-attack in a clinical use or any reported injuries associated with any of these vulnerabilities."
In July 2019, ICS-CERT issued a warning after vulnerabilities were detected in GE anesthesia and respiratory devices, GE Aestiva and GE Aespire (models 7100 and 7900).
London's Metropolitan Police Service has announced that it will start using live facial recognition (LFR) technology to scan public areas for suspected criminals.
After trialing the technology for two years, the Met has said that it will have cameras up and running within a month. The cameras will be linked to a database containing images of suspects. In the event that a suspect is identified by the camera, an alert will be generated.
According to senior technologist with the Met, Johanna Morley, the facial recognition technology has an accuracy rate of 70%. Morley said false identifications were made by the cameras one in a thousand times.
Nick Ephgrave, an assistant commissioner, said: "As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London. Independent research has shown that the public support us in this regard."
Civil liberties groups have described the planned introduction of the technology as "a breathtaking assault on our rights."
The Met said the cameras will only be deployed after consultation with local communities. Active cameras will be displayed overtly, leaving the public in no doubt that they are being watched as they go about their daily lives.
Commenting on the Met's decision to introduce LFR, the director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said: "It flies in the face of the independent review showing the Met’s use of facial recognition was likely unlawful, risked harming public rights and was 81% inaccurate."
A spokesperson for the campaign group Liberty said: "This is a dangerous, oppressive and completely unjustified move by the Met. Facial recognition technology gives the state unprecedented power to track and monitor any one of us, destroying our privacy and our free expression."
In September 2019, Cardiff's high court ruled that police use of automatic facial recognition technology to search for people in crowds is lawful. The technology is currently being used by South Wales police.
The Met is the biggest force in the UK, with jurisdiction over London and Greater London, with the exception of the City of London, which has its own territorial police force.
News of the Met's decision comes a week after the European Commission revealed it is considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public areas for up to five years while regulators try to work out a way to prevent the technology from being abused.
Speaking at BSides Leeds, security researcher Darren Martyn explored the issue of credential stuffing, calling it an “exploding problem on the internet” and the “cyber-equivalent of volume crime.”
Saying that credential stuffing is “aided by data leaks,” Martyn argued that nothing much has been done about it “as it is not cool like ransomware, but the problem exists, and it affects everyone.”
The problem is further enhanced by tools created to enable credential stuffing to be done much more easily, and tools which are sold purely “to engage in post-compromise monetization strategies.” He said that as little as $10 can get you dumps of passwords which has been done by “low level hacking” and most of the tools are “idiot proof.”
He added that “kids revolutionized testing while we were writing Python scripts, and the kids write things that actually work.” As well as low level hacking efforts, you can build tools to do searches for data sets for you, and in his research he had stumbled across hundreds of accounts
In terms of how this makes money, he said that he had “cosplayed as a cyber-criminal” to find more information, and said that there is a “fantastic secondary market for logins” as people can add cash to gift cards using stored credit cards, or in video games where you can pay for in-game items.
Martyn said that despite the scale of the problem, “no-one cares as it affects the consumer who cannot pay for pen testing” and they are left out of pocket, “while the criminals laugh all the way to the bank.”
In terms of protection, he recommended consumers use a password manager and two-factor authentication to better protect their details and logins, while businesses should look to make automated login testing hard, but there were problems with rate limiting, temporary IP blocks and captchas as they can be bypassed.
Asked by Infosecurity what a good first step would be to better prevent credential stuffing attacks, Martyn said that, if you are a company, start by trying to make it expensive for the attacker.
“Rate limiting, temporary IP blocks and captchas don’t prevent, they just slow down,” he said, “but actually put in logging as you will know straight away when you are getting lit up by some script kiddie with Sentry, and your application logs start showing 'gajillions' of logins. See if your API is being brute forced, as no one really checks.”
In the opening keynote at BSides Leeds head of cybersecurity research Daniel Cuthbert said that we are “in the best industry in the world” and, having spent 27 years doing cybersecurity, he has seen that it is the “misfits and weirdos who are doing amazing things.”
Cuthbert said that we are “going through interesting times” in what we are calling the 'fourth industrial revolution,' “and it is good as it is about cyber” and there has been a fundamental change in how we relate and talk.
Pointing to the 1984 film Revenge of the Nerds, he explained that if you look at the most powerful people in the world, they are people like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, and “people in technology impact how we work.”
Cuthbert also pointed out that law makers and politicians are getting more involved in cybersecurity issues, as once 'Spot the Fed' was played at DEFCON, distinguishable by their smart-casual clothing, eventually “they saw the need to get people like us back in the fold.”
This was made further evident by the likes of San Bernadino district attorney Michael Ramos using the term “lying dormant cyber-pathogen” after the shooting and locked iPhone debate, and Cuthbert also pointed at the FBI now having a dedicated page for cyber-criminals, which was mostly made of foreign nationals.
“Don’t stop what you’re doing; we do amazing stuff and people watch what we do,” he said.
Security researchers have discovered a new cyber-espionage operation with links to Iranian state hacking groups targeting a major European energy organization.
Recorded Future’s Insikt Group detected command-and-control (C&C) communications between a C&C server and the victim organization, from late November 2019 until at least January 5 2020.
The C&C server is associated with PupyRAT, an open source, post-exploitation remote access Trojan (RAT) used in the past by multiple Iranian threat actor groups such as APT33 and Cobalt Gypsy.
“While metadata alone does not confirm a compromise, we assess that the high volume and repeated communications from the targeted mail server to a PupyRAT C2 are sufficient to indicate a likely intrusion,” the security vendor wrote.
“Whoever the attacker is, the targeting of a mail server at a high-value critical infrastructure organization could give an adversary access to sensitive information on energy allocation and resourcing in Europe.”
Recorded Future emphasized that the activity pre-dates the current escalation in tensions between the West and Tehran, following the US assassination of a leading Iranian general and the downing of a civilian aircraft by Iranian soldiers.
Security experts have warned that the stand-off could lead to a new wave of Iranian attempts to compromise and disrupt critical infrastructure in the US and elsewhere.
In fact, as Recorded Future argued, Iranian state hackers have been “amassing operational network infrastructure throughout 2019,” and shifted their focus from IT networks to physical control systems in utilities, manufacturing facilities and oil refineries.
The firm urged organizations take a defence-in-depth approach to guard against RATs like PupyRat.
This includes: implementing multi-factor authentication, and/or using a password manager to store unique, strong credentials, monitoring for sequential login attempts from the same IP against different accounts and analyzing and cross-referencing log data.
The average ransomware payment more than doubled quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of 2019, while average downtime grew by several days, according to the latest figures from Coveware.
The security vendor analyzed anonymized data from cases handled by its incident response team and partners to compile its Q4 Ransomware Marketplace report.
It revealed that the average payment in the quarter was $84,116, up 104% from the previous three months. Coveware claimed the jump highlights the diversity of hackers utilizing ransomware today.
“Some variants such as Ryuk and Sodinokibi have moved into the large enterprise space and are focusing their attacks on large companies where they can attempt to extort the organization for a seven-figure payout. For instance, Ryuk ransom payments reached a new high of $780,000 for impacted enterprises,” it argued.
“On the other end of the spectrum, smaller ransomware-as-a-service variants such as Dharma, Snatch, and Netwalker continue to blanket the small business space with a high number of attacks, but with demands as low as $1500.”
That said, Sodinokibi (29%) and Ryuk (22%) accounted for the majority of cases spotted in Q4 2019. Attackers using the former variant began during the quarter to use data theft to force firms to pay-up, which may have increased the figure for total losses.
Also during the quarter, the amount of downtime experienced by victim organizations increased from the previous three months — from 12.1 to 16.2 days. This increase was driven by the larger number of attacks targeting major enterprises with more complex network architectures, which can therefore take weeks to restore and remediate, Coveware claimed.
Phishing, RDP targeting and vulnerability exploitation remain the most popular attack methods, it added. Professional services (20%), healthcare (19%) and software services (12%) were the top three sectors targeted.
According to the data, 98% of organizations that paid a ransom received a decryption key, and those victims successfully decrypted 97% of their data. However, with multi-million-dollar ransoms now commonplace, the official advice is still not to give in to the hackers’ demands, especially as it will lead to continued attacks.
Sonos appears to have bowed to customer pressure and will now offer security updates for legacy kit and ensure it can co-exist with newer systems.
The smart speaker firm issued a statement earlier this week warning that from May, “some of our oldest products will no longer receive software updates or new features.”
It claimed that the legacy products — Zone Players, Connect and Connect:Amp, first-generation Play:5, CR200 , and Bridge — were “stretched to their technical limits.” The firm urged customers to buy new items and take their old kit to a recycling facility.
That stance drew criticism from customers concerned that they wouldn’t be able to use old speakers in concert with newer, supported equipment.
A furore also erupted over the firm’s roll-out of a “Recycle Mode” for legacy equipment, which was designed to protect consumers from unwittingly buying old speakers. It effectively removes all user information and permanently bricks the device in preparation for recycling. But it has been argued that by doing so, recycling firms can subsequently do nothing but strip it for parts, which is more wasteful.
To its credit, Sonos appears to have reversed its stance. In an apology published on Thursday, CEO Patrick Spence said the firm would continue to offer security updates to legacy purchases, as well as finding a way for old and new equipment to work together.
“We are not bricking them, we are not forcing them into obsolescence, and we are not taking anything away. Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible,” he said.
“While legacy Sonos products won’t get new software features, we pledge to keep them updated with bug fixes and security patches for as long as possible. If we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.”
Back in 2018, Trend Micro research warned that hackers could exploit flaws on internet-connected Sonos speakers to remotely control the devices themselves and infiltrate the networks they’re on.
This could present security challenges for corporates if remote workers have speakers operating on their home networks, it claimed.
America's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a warning yesterday after observing an increase in the number of targeted cyber-attacks that utilize Emotet.
Emotet functions as a modular botnet that can steal data, send malicious emails, and act as a dropper, downloading and installing a wide range of malware onto a victim's computer. This sophisticated strain of malware was developed by threat group TA542.
CISA said: "Emotet primarily spreads via malicious email attachments and attempts to proliferate within a network by brute forcing user credentials and writing to shared drives. If successful, an attacker could use an Emotet infection to obtain sensitive information."
The agency warned that such an attack could result in the loss of money and of proprietary information as well as cause "disruption to operations and harm to reputation."
CISA advised users and system administrators to block email attachments such as .dll and .exe, which are commonly associated with malware, and to block any email attachments that cannot be scanned by antivirus software.
Further protection measures suggested by CISA are to implement firewalls, an antivirus program, and a formalized patch management process.
To stop a virus from running rampant around your network, CISA recommended segmenting and segregating networks and functions.
The warning comes a week after cybersecurity firm Proofpoint announced that Emotet was back and causing trouble with a new campaign after taking what appeared to be a Christmas break. Researchers spotted Emotet going after targets in the pharmaceutical industry in the US, Canada, and Mexico on January 13.
By Tuesday, the attackers had widened their net to go after victims in multiple industries in Australia, Austria, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.
"Based on past activity and what our researchers are seeing, organizations around the globe should take Emotet’s return seriously," wrote researchers. "On Monday alone we saw nearly three quarters of a million messages and they’re already fast approaching one million messages total."
This mass of messages, although large, isn’t the highest volume the researchers have ever seen from the TA542 group. Previously, researchers have seen the threat actors send over one million messages in just one day.
Albany County in the state of New York has been struck by two separate cyber-attacks in three weeks.
A five-figure ransom in Bitcoin was paid by Albany County Airport Authority (ACAA) earlier this month after their servers became infected with ransomware on Christmas day.
Airport CEO Philip Calderone said that the authority caught the virus from a company called LogicalNet, which, rather ironically, ACAA had hired to provide cybersecurity services. The attack came to light after LogicalNet reported that its management services network had been breached.
Calderone told Times Union: "We have severed our relationship with LogicalNet."
According to Times Union, while the airport's insurer reimbursed the authority for the rest of the undisclosed ransom payment, the airport authority is seeking to recover the $25,000 deductible it paid on its insurance policy from LogicalNet.
Three weeks later, on January 15, the Albany County town of Colonie was hit by a cyber-attack that took the town's computer system and email offline. Many departments were still experiencing problems on Friday.
Town spokesperson Sara Wiest said on Friday that the town was still trying to determine the exact nature of the attack. Wiest added that all the town's data had been backed up prior to the incident, allowing many departments to continue working despite not having access to the computer system.
In a forced return to last century's communication methods, the town sent out a news release regarding the cyber-attack via fax on Friday morning.
The release stated that there was no indication that any personal data had been compromised and reassured the public that the town's health and safety services were still functioning.
"These types of situations happen in a lot of different places and municipalities and they appear to be similar," said Colonie town supervisor Paula Mahan. "It’s happening in a lot of places and it’s something we have to get used to."
In March 2019, the City of Albany spent $300,000 in new servers, security software upgrades, firewall insurance, and other cybersecurity improvements after being hit by a ransomware attack. Fortunately, the city was able to fall back on its daily backups of mission-critical systems, and no ransom was paid.
An annual report into the virulence of phishing scams has found that more than half of organizations dealt with at least one successful phishing attack in 2019.
The 2020 "State of the Phish" report, by cybersecurity and compliance firm Proofpoint, was produced using data from nearly 50 million simulated phishing attacks sent by Proofpoint to end users over a one-year period. In addition, researchers combed through third-party survey responses from more than 600 information security professionals and analyzed the fundamental cybersecurity knowledge of more than 3,500 working adults in the US, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, and the UK.
Among the key findings, 55 percent of surveyed organizations dealt with at least one successful phishing attack in 2019, and infosecurity professionals reported a high frequency of social engineering attempts across a range of methods.
Other forms of attack reflect cyber-criminals' continued focus on compromising individual end users. Spear-phishing attacks were reported by 88 percent of organizations worldwide, while 86 percent reported business email compromise (BEC) attacks and social media attacks.
Phishing via text/SMS, also known as smishing, struck 84 percent of organizations, while 83 percent reported experiencing voice phishing, or "vishing." Malicious USB drops had caused problems for 81 percent of organizations surveyed.
On a more positive note, the sixth annual "State of the Phish" report revealed that equipping individuals with instructions on how to avoid taking the phishers' bait garnered good results. Seventy-eight percent of organizations reported that security awareness training activities resulted in measurable reductions in phishing susceptibility.
“Effective security awareness training must focus on the issues and behaviors that matter most to an organization’s mission,” said Joe Ferrara, senior vice president and general manager of security awareness training for Proofpoint.
“We recommend taking a people-centric approach to cybersecurity by blending organization-wide awareness training initiatives with targeted, threat-driven education. The goal is to empower users to recognize and report attacks.”
Proofpoint researchers noted an increase in the volume of reported phishing messages and identified a trend toward more targeted, personalized attacks carried out over bulk campaigns.
The volume of reported messages jumped significantly year on year, with end users reporting more than nine million suspicious emails in 2019, an increase of 67 percent over 2018.
The number of infections spiked last week, with hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in various plugins, including Simple Fields and the CP Contact Form with PayPal, the security vendor explained in a blog post.
Among the domains registered as part of the campaign are gotosecond2[.]com, adsformarket[.]com, admarketlocation[.]com and admarketresearch[.]xyz.
“We encourage website owners to disable the modification of primary folders block hackers from inserting malicious files or includes as part of WordPress security hardening and security best practices.”
The attackers have also been observed abusing/wp-admin/ features to create fake plugin directories that contain more malware, for example by uploading zip compressed files using the /wp-admin/includes/plugin-install.php file to upload and unzip a compressed fake plugin into /wp-content/plugins/.
The two most common fake plugin directories spotted by Sucuri are /wp-content/plugins/supersociall/supersociall.php and /wp-content/plugins/blockspluginn/blockspluginn.php.
The firm has seen over 2000 infected sites thus far compromised in this campaign.
WordPress is by far the biggest culprit when it comes to hacked website platforms. It accounted for 90% of compromised websites spotted by Sucuri in 2018, up from 83% in 2018. There was a big drop to Magento (4.6%) and Joomla (4.3%) in second and third.
Tens of thousands of cannabis users in the US have had their personal information leaked by a misconfigured cloud bucket, according to researchers.
Over 85,000 files including more than 30,000 records with sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) were exposed when software firm THSuite apparently left an Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 bucket unsecured.
THSuite provides software that helps cannabis dispensaries collect the large volumes of sensitive user info they need to comply with state laws.
At least three clients were affected in the privacy snafu: Amedicanna Dispensary, Bloom Medicinals and Colorado Grow Company.
Exposed PII included names, home and email addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, medical ID numbers and much more, according to vpnMentor.
As such, the leak affected both medical cannabis users and those who bought the plant for recreational purposes.
“Medical patients have a legal right to keep their medical information private for good reason. Patients whose personal information was leaked may face negative consequences both personally and professionally,” the researchers argued.
“Under HIPAA regulations, it’s a federal crime in the US for any health services provider to expose protected health information (PHI) that could be used to identify an individual.”
The revelations may also harm recreational users, especially if their employer prohibits cannabis use, they continued. The database apparently included scanned copies of government and employee IDs.
From a cybercrime perspective, the data trove would also offer a potentially lucrative opportunity for hackers to craft convincing phishing emails, texts and calls, and launch follow-on identity fraud attempts.
The researchers found the exposed database via a simple scan on December 24 last year. After contacting its owners on December 26 the problem was finally mitigated on January 14 2020.
Cloud misconfigurations like this remain a major source of cyber-related risk for organizations around the world. VpnMentor alone has been able to find millions of user records leaked by the likes of cosmetic giant Yves Rocher, Best Western Hotels and Canadian telco Freedom Mobile.
The United Nations has called for a US-led investigation into the alleged hacking of Jeff Bezos’s mobile phone by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
The bombshell allegations, which broke on Wednesday, suggest that spyware was deployed via an MP4 file sent from a WhatsApp account belonging to the prince. The two had apparently met and exchanged phone numbers a month before the alleged attack on May 1 2018.
According to the analysis by UN special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, “massive and unprecedented” exfiltration of data followed the initial spyware deployment, with data egress from the device jumping suddenly by 29,156% to 126 MB and then continuing undetected for months after.
“The forensic analysis assessed that the intrusion likely was undertaken through the use of a prominent spyware product identified in other Saudi surveillance cases, such as the NSO Group's Pegasus-3 malware, a product widely reported to have been purchased and deployed by Saudi officials,” the UN analysis continued.
“This would be consistent with other information. For instance, the use of WhatsApp as a platform to enable installation of Pegasus onto devices has been well-documented and is the subject of a lawsuit by Facebook/WhatsApp against NSO Group.”
The NSO Group has “unequivocally” denied the claims.
It’s claimed that the Saudis targeted the world’s richest man Bezos because of his ownership of the Washington Post, whose columnist Jamal Khashoggi wrote in highly critical terms of the crown prince. He is believed to have been assassinated on a visit to the Saudi embassy in Turkey on October 2 2018.
In November 2018 and February 2019, the crown prince’s WhatsApp account is also said to have sent messages revealing details of Bezos’s affair, months before it became public knowledge.
“The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the crown prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia,” argued the special rapporteurs.
“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos's phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the crown prince in efforts to target perceived opponents.”
The case also highlights the devastating impact of legitimate cross-border spyware sales from private companies to authoritarian governments, the UN argued.
“Surveillance through digital means must be subjected to the most rigorous control, including by judicial authorities and national and international export control regimes, to protect against the ease of its abuse,” it said.
“It underscores the pressing need for a moratorium on the global sale and transfer of private surveillance technology.”
It will be some cause for concern for Bezos and his personal security team that the attack went undetected for so long.
“For high value targets, the best protection is to compartmentalize how apps are used. For example, they might use WhatsApp or Signal for communicating with external contacts, and Teams for communicating with internals,” argued F-Secure principal researcher, Jarno Niemelä.
“It makes sense to separate use by device, I recommend communicating with external contacts with a different device to the one that you use for handling critical matters such as 2 factor authentication apps. It is also important to review application permissions regularly to deny access to apps that have fallen out of use.”