According to Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigation Report, about 80% of all victims of malware attacks are targets of opportunity. With 94% of data compromised involving servers, it is essential to pay attention to server security. And as email is one of the tools that is used on a daily basis in any business, email security is of utmost importance.
A lot of attacks have used the Blackhole exploit URLs. According to the Threat Report H1/2012 by F-Secure Labs, as many as 1 out of 25 emails contain spam with such a malicious URL which is intended to deliver a malicious payload to a victim’s computer. The Blackhole exploit kit targets vulnerabilities in the operating system, old versions of browsers such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari as well as many popular plugins like Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat and Java.
As normal spam filtering may not catch these kind of threats, it is important to understand the new forms of the spam emails. Ordinary spam definition updates are too slow and usually do not protect you from the Blackhole exploits, so Real-time URL reputation check is a must to have.
Windows and Java continue to be the most popular targets. F-Secure Threat Report H2/2012 states that a vast majority of exploit attacks in general relate to four commonly known vulnerabilities in Windows or Java, and all of these already have security patches.
With this in mind, it is essential to protect servers and email efficiently enough from attack.
F-Secure E-mail and Server Security solution uses the same awarded DeepGuard technology as Client Security, which has been given the Approved Corporate Endpoint Protection certificate by AV-Test. Check out the latest supported platforms on our Downloads page.
E-mail and Server Security was the first product launch for which I was responsible for on the marketing side here at F-Secure. And this is my first blog post in Save and Savvy as well! Time seems to have been flying since I joined the company at the beginning of March, there are so many interesting things going on.
An employee opens an attachment from someone who claims to be a colleague in a different department. The attachment turns out to be malicious. The company network? Breached. If you follow the constant news about data breaches, you read this stuff all the time. But do you ever wonder how hackers get otherwise smart, professional people to fall for their tricks? How do they know who to email? What to say to get their victim to fall prey? Where do they get the information that gives them a foothold into an organization? The answer is so simple, and just makes too much sense: LinkedIn. Recon made easy The first phase of any targeted hacking scheme is the reconnaissance phase - where the hacker gathers information about the company, employees, their job titles, email addressses, etc. What better place to start than LinkedIn? "LinkedIn is a treasure trove of easily accessible personal information and company IT data," writes penetration tester Trevor Christiansen. "Unbeknownst to most of the employees who post their information on LinkedIn, any hacker looking to wreak havoc on a company’s highly sensitive, business-critical data could find his or her point of entry using this ubiquitous business networking forum." White hat hackers (the good guys) like Christiansen use LinkedIn to gather information too, albeit with a different end purpose in mind - to test and improve an organization's security. F-Secure CEO Christian Fredrikson described two such exercises performed by F-Secure's ethical hacking team in his recent keynote at CeBIT. In one exercise, the hackers targeted employees who mentioned mainframe-related info in their profiles. In the other, they targeted source code developers. So, exactly how do hackers, good and bad, use LinkedIn to gain a foothold into company they intend to hack? Our own white hat hacker, Knud in F-Secure's Cyber Security Services team, describes a common scenario. "You just search for employees working at a target company via the standard LinkedIn interface," he says. "Now, armed with a list of names, you can start Googling them until you find a company email address." Now, he says, you have the email format used in the company. For example, email@example.com. "Shoot off an email to a few random employees asking something stupid like 'Bob, is that you? Long time no see,'" he continues. "With a bit of luck, someone will reply and you'll have the corporate signature. With the corporate signature, plus names, positions and job descriptions people helpfully put on LinkedIn, you can start spoofing internal emails." Building rapport for social engineering Knud points out that the more information people share in their profiles, the easier it is to build rapport. "For example, someone lists their graphic design skills. So you send an email that reads, 'Due to your experience with icon design and great layout skills, I wonder if you have time to take a quick look at something we are working on in <other department>; see attached (malicious) document and get back to me." To gain even more information, a hacker can create a fake profile and then connect with the employee. This gives them greater access to contact details and the person's network. Combined with information gleaned from Facebook or other social networks, such as interests and hobbies, hackers can get a pretty full picture of the employee they intend to target, enabling them to sharpen their spear even more. The best defense So what's an employee to do, scrub your profile of all but the most basic info? Decline to list your employer? Such suggestions would seem to defeat the purpose of LinkedIn, where profile information can hopefully lead to networking opportunities. Companies in turn appreciate the promotion they get via their employees on LinkedIn. Luckily, F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan doesn't believe self-censorship the answer. "It's not really the problem of the employee to limit what they write on LinkedIn," he says. "A security-minded organization should have a policy that states that employees should be mindful." Indeed, the best weapon against these types of attacks is employee awareness. Your information may be available on LinkedIn, but if you're are aware of the ways hackers exploit that info, you'll be less likely to fall for tricks. Employer-sponsored education on social engineering tactics would help employees learn to be suspicious of any communication that seems even the slightest bit off. Hackers may love LinkedIn, but only as long as it gets them where they want to be. To head them off, awareness is key. Image courtesy of Mambembe Arts & Crafts, flickr.com
Yet another big vulnerability in the headlines. The Metaphor hack was discovered by Israel-based NorthBit and can be used to take control over almost any Android device. The vulnerability can be exploited from video files that people encounter when surfing the web. It affects all versions of Android except version 6, which is the latest major version also known as Marshmallow. But why is this such a big deal? Severe vulnerabilities are found all the time and we receive updates and patches to fix them. A fast update process is as a matter of fact a cyber security cornerstone. What makes this issue severe is that it affects Android, which to a large extent lack this cornerstone. Android devices are usually not upgraded to new major versions. Google is patching vulnerabilities, but these patches’ path to the devices is long and winding. Different vendors’ practices for patching varies a lot, and many devices will never receive any. This is really a big issue as Android’s smartphone market share is about 85% and growing! How is this possible? This underlines one of the fundamental differences between the Android and iOS ecosystems. Apple’s products are planned more like the computers we are used to. They are investments and will be maintained after purchase. iOS devices receive updates, and even major system upgrades, automatically and free of charge. And most users do install them. Great for the security. Android is a different cup of tea. These devices are mostly aimed at a cheaper market segment. They are built as consumables that will be replaced quite frequently. This is no doubt a reasonable and cost-saving strategy for the vendors. They can focus on making software work on the currently shipping devices and forget about legacy models. It helps keeping the price-point down. This leads to a situation where only 2,3% of the Android users are running Marshmallow, even half a year after release. The contrast against iOS is huge. iOS 9 has been on the market about the same time and already covers 79% of the user base. Apple reported a 50% coverage just five days after release! The Android strategy backfires when bugs like Metaphor are discovered. A swift and compete patch roll-out is the only viable response, but this is not available to all. This leaves many users with two bad options, to replace the phone or to take a risk and keep using the old one. Not good. One could think that this model is disappearing as we all grow more and more aware of the cyber threats. Nope, development actually goes in the opposite direction. Small connected devices, IoT-devices, are slowly creeping into our homes and lives. And the maintenance model for these is pretty much the same as for Android. They are cheap. They are not expected to last long, and the technology is developing so fast that you would be likely to replace them anyway even if they were built to last. And on top of that, their vendors are usually more experienced in developing hardware than software. All that together makes the IoT-revolution pretty scary. Even if IoT-hacking isn’t one of the ordinary citizen’s main concerns yet. So let’s once again repeat the tree fundamental commands for being secure on-line. Use common sense, keep your device patched and use a suitable security product. If you have a system that provides regular patches and updates, keep in mind that it is a valuable service that helps keeping you safe. But it is also worth pointing out that nothing as black and white. There are unfortunately also problematic update scenarios. Safe surfing, Micke Photo by etnyk under CC
We who write stuff in the security industry are used to dashing off sentences like, “Online attacks are becoming more and more advanced” or “Malware is continually evolving in sophistication.” But in the past year we experienced a surprising throwback to one type of malware from an earlier era. Malware that uses a rather old technique, but it’s causing plenty of trouble nonetheless. It kinda feels like we've gone back in time. I’m talking about macro malware. It’s something we hadn’t seen prominently since the early 2000’s. And now, as touched on in our just released Threat Report covering the 2015 threat landscape, it has reared its head again. What is macro malware? Macro malware takes advantage of the macro feature in Office documents to execute commands. And macros are simply shortcuts the user can create for repeated tasks. For example, let’s say you are creating a document in Word and you find yourself repeatedly editing text to be red with a yellow highlight, 16 point, italic and right aligned. To save time, you can create a macro of your commands and then whenever you need that kind of style, simply run the macro. A little history Macro malware was common back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The first macro malware, Concept, was discovered in 1995, although it was basically harmless, simply displaying a dialogue box. In 1999, one of the most notorious macro malware, Melissa, was discovered. Melissa emailed itself to 50 addresses in the user’s address book, spreading to 20% of the world’s computers. But macro malware wouldn’t last long. When Microsoft released Word 2003, the default security settings were changed to stop macros from automatically running when a document opened. This made it more difficult to infect a computer through macros and attackers mostly dropped them to focus on other methods. So what happened? Why is it back again? The re-emergence, according to Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor in F-Secure Labs, may be correlated with the decline of exploitable vulnerabilities due to security improvements in today’s common software applications like Microsoft Office. Exploits have been one of the most common ways to infect machines in recent years, but with fewer software holes to exploit, malware authors seem to be reverting to other tricks. How it’s successful Today’s macro malware attempts to get around Microsoft’s default settings with a simple trick. When a document is opened, the information inside doesn’t appear properly to the viewer – for example, sometimes the document looks like scrambled gobbledygook. Text in the document claims that macros, or content, must be enabled for proper viewing. Here’s one example: Curiosity? Just plain unaware? Whatever the reason, as Sean says, the malware’s reappearance has been successful because “People click.” Once macros have been enabled, the malicious macro code is executed – which then downloads the payload. Macro malware is used by crypto-ransomware families like Cryptowall and the newest threat Locky. These families encrypt the data on a computer and then demand payment to unencrypt it. Although we don’t know for sure, it’s possible it was macro malware that was used in the holding of a Hollywood hospital for ransom last month. The banking Trojan Dridex, which allows attackers to steal banking credentials and other personal info from infected machines, also uses the technique. How to avoid it Fortunately, if you use security from F-Secure, you’re protected from these threats. But aside from that, the old advice still holds: Be wary of email attachments from senders you don’t know. And take care not to enable macros on documents you’ve received from sources you’re not 100% sure of. "Back to the Future" banner image courtesy of Garry Knight, flickr.com