February 27, 2018 – Last week, the city of Allentown was hit with Emotet, malware that started as a banking trojan. Reports indicate that the initial entry into their municipal business environment occurred via phishing. Once the malware was downloaded and installed, it began to replicate itself across the city government’s network infecting devices and stealing login credentials. This has resulted in the city’s financial system being offline, the city’s camera surveillance being taken offline, and the city’s police department being disconnected from the Pennsylvania law enforcement network.
It is estimated that the cost to remediate this attack will be close to $1 million. This same malware has infected other government and public-school facilities. In fact, this past January, the same malware cost the Rockingham, North Carolina school district $314,000 to recover from the infection.
What is Emotet? Emotet is malware that started out as a banking trojan three years ago. It was originally designed to sniff network traffic for user login credentials. Over the last three years, the malware has morphed to allow for custom modules to be added. Last year, the malware started to use the EternalBlue exploit developed by the NSA and later leaked to the public. This exploit allows the malware to spread across Windows networks on devices that have not been patched. The malware is not easily blocked as it can be delivered via .js, .pdf, and .doc/.docx files.
What can be done? Ensure that you are auditing your patching to verify that patches are being applied as they should. Not saying that this malware spread via the EternalBlue exploit, however as a method that it does spread by, are you ready to prevent it from spreading.
Why perform a patch audit? Sometimes patches may be pushed in an automated fashion, but for whatever reason just don’t make it on to a system and may require a more hands on approach.
November 28, 2017 – If you have Apple devices running High Sierra, there is a critical vulnerability that will allow anyone to access the device if they can get their hands on it. All that needs to be done is log in as guest. Then via System Preferences>Users & Groups>Click the lock to make changes. Then use “root” with no password. Try it for several times. When the problem is exploited, the user is authenticated into a “System Administrator” account and is given full ability to view files and even reset or change passwords for pre-existing users on that machine.
The following can be done to prevent the problem from occurring prior to Apple releases the fix.
October 25, 2017 – Brian Krebs, a known and respected journalist that covers cyber, reported that Dell Inc. had lost control of a the web address that is used by the Dell Backup & Recovery service installed on just about every Dell computer produced. There are indications that during a few weeks this past summer, a malicious group took control of the address and may have pushed malware via the service. The suspected time frame was between June and July 2017.
During the period of loss of control, the website address was being directed to a leased server on Amazon that was and currently continues to be known as hosting malicious content.
The software that performs the service comes pre-installed on Windows systems according to the Dell support forums.
If you are using a Dell computer that has the Dell Backup & Recovery service running on it, ensure your malware/anti-virus software is up-to-date, and be wary of any calls or pop-ups on your computer claiming to be Dell tech support, even if they provide you with the correct service tag. If you receive a call or pop-up, call Dell directly.
For Krebs’ full report see https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/10/dell-lost-control-of-key-customer-support-domain-for-a-month-in-2017/
October 24, 2017 – A piece of malware called “Bad Rabbit” is reportedly making its rounds around Eastern Europe and Russia. However, the United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has reported they have “received multiple reports of Bad Rabbit ransomware infections in many countries around the world.”
The ransomware infection is being distributed via a pop-up in the user’s browser that says the version of Adobe Flash Player installed is out of date. Once the fake update is downloaded, it will move from computer to computer encrypting the files and stealing info in memory.
This malware preys on a weakness in Windows operating systems using a method discovered and used by the National Security Agency. This weakness (aka vulnerability) became public when it was stolen and then leaked to the world as “EternalBlue”.
The vulnerability utilizes a communication method that is used between Windows based computers called Server Message Block version 1. As this method of communication is the oldest version in use, there were a significant amount of computers that were easily attacked in April/May of 2017. This is evidenced by the WannaCry and the Petya/notPetya malware that took control of over 230,000 computers in 150 different countries. If it was not for an alert cyber security researcher that found a method of killing the malware, this number would have been much higher. Organizations that were affected include FedEx, British hospital system, and French auto manufacturer Renault, to name a few.
A fix for the vulnerability was sent out in March by Microsoft. The computers that did not apply the fix were left vulnerable. As of this date, there are still computers vulnerable as they have not received the fix.
What can you do? Ensure your computers are up to date on patches. This can be done by using Windows Update on your computers or by using a patch management system.
If there are any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
October 15, 2017 – Cybersecurity is not ONLY about responding to a ransomware or hacker but being prepared to prevent it from happening. When you are prepared to prevent an attacker for entering your computers or network, you make it difficult for them to be successful. For an attacker that means they will have to spend more time trying to get what they want. If it is simply to hold your computer and information for ransom, then they will likely move on. If it is your information that they want, they will expend the extra time to get it. But who said you had to make it easy?
So, what can you do? Well, a lot. But don’t despair. It may not cost you a lot to implement. Let’s follow the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) Cyber Security Framework. In the framework there are two areas that are easily addressed. Identify and Protect.
Asset Management – Get a list of EVERYTHING that processes information electronically. It could be a security camera connected to your network, your computers & servers, a printer, all you network devices, etc. Record what it is, what operating system (Windows, Linux, macOS, etc) and what software is installed on it (Office 2016, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, and the other programs you use). If it is a device like a printer or a security camera, record the brand and determine the firmware version.
Maintenance – Update your software and firmware when new version are available as they may address security flaws in the software. For Windows and other applications, updates are provided monthly. Others, not so often. Check with the developer and see if they have an email list you can join to be notified when there are updates.
The longer a security flaw remains in your software or firmware the easier you make it for an attacker to be successful in taking or ransoming your information. But by doing these two things, you have done a lot to protect your information and taken a proactive stance in preventing an attack from being successful.
If you need assistance, let us know. We’ll be glad to help you become proactive!
To help businesses understand what is at stake in their business when it comes to information technology, it helps to show them the value of what they have as assets and then apply a level of risk to that asset
Rarely do you find a business any more that does not use a computer of any sort. Gone are the days of credit card carbon slips, paper ledgers, and hand drawn engineering diagrams. We are striving to do more with less to increase profit. In this effort, we reduce what is at stake in one way and see increases in others. For example, in my recent travels to Michigan, I stopped for gas at a gas station that did not have any card readers on their pumps. While I do not know why, it provides a good example of what is at stake by not adopting technology. For example, the reduced threat of credit card theft, but at the expense of having people drive off as it provides a different experience than at other gas stations.
To that end, to remain competitive, businesses of all sizes that are adapting to new technology, may not understand what is at stake by not addressing the risk of implementing it. Does your small business understand what is at risk by providing free and open Internet access to your customers? How about the risk of placing card readers on the gas pumps? Do the benefits out weight the risks? What information does your business have or use? What happens if that information could be used to embarrass your business? What can be done to reduce the effect on your business?
The effect can be reduced by identifying risk and that starts with identifying what you have at stake. Don’t think of what is at stake just physically, because what you have is more than the physical devices that you may have purchased. For example, the laptop that you bought may have only cost $300. The value of the laptop itself may decrease (likely), but what about what you have been doing on that laptop for your business. How much information do you have stored on it (think contracts, projections, plans, contacts, etc?) What is the value of that information? Do you now see that the laptop is worth a lot more than just the value of the physical device. Identifying what you have is designating what you have as assets.
Weaknesses in the laptop represent vulnerabilities. These weaknesses can come in the form of how susceptible it is to damage (physical or logical). For example the laptop is a portable device that contains various pieces of software installed on the computer and the information that is important to your business. Each of these items are vulnerabilities that has different weaknesses. But these weaknesses don’t necessarily mean your information will be lost.
Look at the weaknesses. What or who might take advantage of or exploit those weaknesses? The threat could come in the form of the user having an accident. For example, accidentally spilling Starbucks into the keyboard, loosing it at the airport or mall, and dropping it on the ground? Or the threat could be external: Your house or place of business catches on fire; a meteor smashes a hole through the computer; or someone steals it. How about cyber criminals infecting the laptop with malware when you visit innocently visit of interest? Threat can come in many different forms and it is necessary to identify threats, even the hypothetical and far-fetched ones.
Given the look at the weaknesses and threats, the question that begs to be answered is “What is the likelihood?” The chance that a meteor might smash a hole through the laptop is pretty slim. That someone would steal your laptop is higher. By identifying what risks exist, a small business can address the threats in a way that would reduce the risk.
For example with the laptop, what can be done to keep from loosing the information on it if it is stolen? For example, maybe you could encrypt the hard drive. Use cable locks to secure the laptop. Keep it with you and don’t leave it in a car. What about that meteor leaving a hole in it? Back up the information off of the device. These actions are called mitigating actions, in that the mitigate the risk by reducing the likelihood that the weaknesses we identified would be exploited.
Identifying what is at stake and determining what the risk is based on the weaknesses and the identified threats will help small businesses make informed decisions on the actions necessary to protect their information and ultimately their business, brand, and good name. If you need help identifying what is at risk for you, do not hesitate to reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Peter Lipa, Regional Director for the Americas for Sticky Password
Talking with small business owners, all too often I find that they have an authoritarianmentality in regards to their customers, as in: “the more customer data I have, the greater control I have over them!” This is particularly true of online businesses, where customers (and their money) are hidden behind the virtual invisibility of the Internet. (I intentionally do not use the word anonymous, because the Internet is anything but anonymous!) The thinking being that more data/information will hopefully translate to more opportunities to monetize all those contacts.
If you really do need passwords to restrict access to your website, then make sure you require customers to follow best practices in creating their passwords.
Implement an automated password system that:
Imagine this… You are in charge of a major bank’s cyber security operations center. It is 2:10AM and your cell phone is blowing up. The network has been compromised. The night time analyst has identified a worm and isolated it in………. a system that controls the air conditioning at one of the branches. A threat exists… Yes… But does not warrant taking down all of the banks networks. It does indicate that extra vigilance and investigation are required. The analyst performed all the steps as outlined in the incident response plan and mitigated the threat.
A well-defined and practiced incident response plan will provide the guidelines necessary to make a determination by the network administrator if the system/network should be shut down immediately or require remediation in place.
The response plan should take into consideration the criticality of the system, the value of the information, and the attack/threat characteristics. Depending on the system/network’s purpose questions about the operation of the system need to be answered. Questions such as:
• Is the system critical to life/death/dismemberment? Will physical damage result from an attack on the system? What would happen if the device or network was disconnected or immediately shut down?
• Does the device support critical infrastructure? Will fail safe’s kick in if the system/network access is removed?
• Is the device simply a database that contains personally identifiable information (PII) or electronic protected health information (ePHI)?
• Is the network/device a mail server or web site server?
With the network/devices and criticalities identified, make a determination on the threat and how pervasive is it.
• Is it a worm?
• Is it a botnet?
• Is information being ex-filtrated?
• Are devices being remotely controlled preventing use?
• What are the characteristics of the attack?
It is these types of questions that need to be answered and documented in an incident response plan.
A good example of an attack occurred late last year in Germany. A steel mill in Germany was attacked that caused actual physical damage. The attackers took control of a blast furnace and prevented an orderly shutdown of the furnace. Technicians Utilized immediate emergency shutdown procedures over riding the control system at the furnace and prevented further damage (Zetter, 2015). This example highlights that removing the system from the attack prevented subsequent damage.
However if the system is a critical system, like a power substation controller, and the attack vector appears to be a worm that is not immediately degrading the network or system, it may be beneficial leaving the system as is and attempting to mitigate the problem by migrating the responsibilities elsewhere.
A case can be made either way for shutting down the system/network immediately. Factors such as attack impact and system criticality must be weighed. A good response plan will take into account many such scenarios and will allow for improved decision making, coordination between internal and external entities, and a unified response which will ultimately result in the limitation of data.
Zetter, K. (2015, January 8). A cyber attack has caused confirmed physical damage for the second time ever. Retrieved 2015, March 26 from http://www.wired.com/2015/01/german-steel-mill-hack-destruction/