Tag: cybercrime

By Carol Hildebrand for CSO

As the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a massive shift in internet usage, cybercriminals quickly pounced, launching more than 10 million distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks aimed at crippling targets with a heavy reliance on online services. Attack frequency spiked 20 percent year over year and 22 percent for the last six months of 2020.

According to the most recent NETSCOUT Threat Intelligence Report, vital pandemic industries such as ecommerce, streaming services, online learning, and healthcare all experienced increased attention from malicious actors targeting the very online services essential to remote work and online life.

The top 10 vertical industries under attack in the second half of 2020 further illustrates the enormous impact COVID-19 has had on DDoS attack activity. Threat actors always have embraced an opportunistic pivot, and this was no exception as they enthusiastically flocked to the ensuing smorgasbord of new opportunities.

The top 10 are:

  1. Wired telecommunications carriers
  2. Data processing, hosting and related services
  3. Wireless telecommunications carriers
  4. Internet publishing and broadcasting
  5. Electronic shopping and mail order houses
  6. Electronic computer manufacturing
  7. All other telecoms
  8. Colleges, universities and professional schools
  9. Software publishers
  10. Computer training

The top three listed sectors fall under the category of Old Faithfuls because attacks on both subscribers and their operational infrastructures are inherent to their role as connectivity providers. However, attackers widened their target profile beyond typical targets as the massive shift to online work and play opened promising new avenues of attack.

For instance, the fourth sector—Internet Publishing and Broadcasting—is by no means a usual suspect in the NETSCOUT top 10. Its presence can be summed up in two words: Netflix and Zoom.

Similarly, online shopping, which grew an impressive 44 percent in 2020, represents another pandemic stalwart that came under increased attack, as did online learning. Interestingly, this activity was seen not only at the usual hot spots of colleges and universities but also at the high school and middle school levels.

With DDoS-for-hire services both readily available and incredibly cheap, it seems likely that budding online delinquents set about playing hooky on an internet scale.

 

Source: OFM

More than 40% of victims of ransomware attacks in South Africa pay the cybercriminals responsible to try to secure or recover their data. But in many cases, the crooks simply disappear with the money.

This is according to a new report from security firm Kaspersky, which said 42% of local ransomware victims coughed up money to recover their data.

Whether they paid or not, only 24% of victims were able to restore all their encrypted or blocked files following an attack. Sixty-one percent lost at least some files; 32% lost a significant amount; and 29% lost a small number of files. Meanwhile, 11% who did experience such an incident lost almost all their data, Kaspersky said.

According to TechCentral, Marina Titova, head of consumer product marketing at Kaspersky, said handing over money doesn’t guarantee the return of data, and only encourages cybercriminals to continue the practice. Kaspersky always recommends that those affected by ransomware should not pay as that money supports this scheme to thrive.

4m African web addresses have been stolen

Source: Business Insider SA

More than four million IP addresses have been misappropriated in what has been called Africa’s greatest internet heist. The extent of the theft, which first drew red flags back in 2016, has now been fully uncovered, revealing a trail of corruption, coverups, and a burgeoning black-market trade.

The results of an internal audit undertaken by the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) have finally been made public after almost two years of waiting. AFRINIC, which is responsible for the allocation and management of IP addresses on the continent, began its investigation after being contacted by the United States’ Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) in 2019.

Four years before the FBI drew attention to the numerous anomalies – and the Supreme Court of Mauritius, where it is headqaurtered, served AFRINIC with an order to investigate – the information centre was tipped off by internet investigator Ron Guilmette.

Guilmette’s collaboration with local tech publication, MyBroadband, resulted in a report which implicated AFRINIC co-founder and engineer Ernest Byaruhanga as the mastermind behind the heist.

In total, 4.1 million IP addresses were stolen, 2.3 million from AFRINIC’s “free pool” and a further 1.7 million “legacy” IP addresses. They were worth around R1.3 billion, according to MyBroadband.

An IP, or Internet Protocol, address allows devices to communicate with each other, by assigning a unique number to each device.

The current generation IPv4 addresses are, however, in seriously short supply. This shortage has, in turn, made IP addresses valuable.

AFRINIC tracks and manages IP addresses through the WHOIS system, which, as the title describes, records who or what is using a specific address. As part of its latest report on the theft, AFRINIC admits that its WHOIS database was severely compromised by internal staff who “acted in collusion with other third parties”.

IPv4 addresses, which were already reserved and in use by major organisations, were effectively hijacked and sold. These reappropriated IP addresses were used to forward spam, breach data records, and compromise websites.

Dozens of South African-based companies and organisations were impacted.

The Free State Department of Education and Anglo American both lost IP addresses to the value of almost R20 million, while the now-defunct Infoplan, which previously managed the Department of Defence’s information systems, was the worst hit, losing addresses worth approximately R80 million.

Three whole IP blocks, equating to almost 200,000 individual addresses, belonging to Woolworths were misappropriated. MyBroadband estimates the value of these stolen addresses to exceed R58 million.

Similarly, three IP blocks belonging to Nedbank – historically associated with Cape of Good Hope Bank Limited, Syfrets, and NBS Bank – were also part of the heist.

Other major South African organisations which had their IP addresses misappropriated include Nampak, Sasol, the City of Cape Town’s Directorate of Information Services, Transnet, and Independent Media’s Argus Holdings.

Approximately 1.5 million IP addresses have been reversed or reclaimed as part of AFRINIC’s audit. Most other addresses are still pending, as the result of a review process determining rightful custodianship.

 

Source: ITWeb

In 2020, Kaspersky detected a global average of 360 000 new malicious files each day, an increase of 5.2%, or 18 000 more, compared to the year before.

According to the security giant, this was influenced largely by a significant growth in the number of Trojans and backdoors, with a 40.5% and 23% increase respectively.

These were the findings of the Kaspersky Security Bulletin: Statistics of the Year Report.

Adware declines
On the plus side, adware is on the decline globally, and this scourge experienced a 35% decrease when compared to the previous year. However, not all regions were so lucky, with some noting an increase. In SA, for example, by the end of October last year, the average adware notifications per user increased slightly to over 33 in comparison to 32 for the whole of 2019.

It was also expected that for the duration of 2020, more than 256 000 South Africans would have been hit with adware.

The vast majority of malware detected, nearly 90%, occurred via Windows PE files – a file format specific to Windows operating systems. Concurrently, the number of new malware related to Android operating systems dropped by 13.7%.

Capitalising on remote workers
Given that remote working and studying were the order of the day during the pandemic, most likely on computers and laptops, threat actors seem to have shifted their focus to these devices.

Kaspersky saw a 27% increase in the number of different scripts – sent via malicious e-mail campaigns or encountered on infected Web sites, which could, once again, reflect the fact that people spent more time on the Internet and cyber criminals hoped to capitalise on that.

Denis Staforkin, a security expert at Kaspersky, said the rise in the number of malicious objects detected during 2020 can be attributed to the pandemic, as users across the globe were forced to spend more time on their devices and online.

“It’s hard to know whether or not attackers were more active or our solutions detected more malicious files simply because of greater activity. It could be a combination of both. Either way, we have registered a noticeable increase in the number of new malicious files in 2020, and this will most likely continue in 2021 as employees continue to work from home and countries implement different restrictions. However, if users take basic security precautions, they can significantly lower their risk of encountering them,” he says.

Better than cure
In order to stay protected, Kaspersky recommends that users pay close attention to and don’t open any suspicious files or attachments received from unknown sources. Also, the company advises to double-check the URL format and company name spelling before you download anything, to not download and install applications from untrusted sources, or click on any links received from unknown sources and suspicious online advertisements.

“Create strong and unique passwords, including a mix of lower-case and upper-case letters, numbers and punctuation, and activate two-factor authentication. Also, always install updates. Some of them may contain critical security issues fixes.”

Finally, Kaspersky counsels to ignore messages asking to disable security systems for office software or antivirus software, and to always use a robust security solution appropriate to the system type and devices.

 

Source: MyBroadband, ESET

It’s time to file that tax return at SARS! Whilst many of us cannot wait for our refunds, this is also a time of the year where cybercriminals are waiting to attack. Sadly, with the tax season comes tax scams with cybercriminals seeking to steal your tax refund.

Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET South Africa explained: “Whilst we like to think we have become wiser to email spams and scams, cybercriminals are often in the perfect position to “fine tune” their attacks. If one attack doesn’t work, they simply adapt and improve, and then spam it out again.”

ESET offers the following tips to stay safe during the tax return season:

1. Are you worried you’re being phished? Look at the bait
Always look at who the email is from. It’s possible to fake any email address, but not all phishers are this clever – they may use a random email address that gives the game away. “Check the link that you’re supposed to click by hovering your mouse over it to display a pop-up message with the real link in it. Look closely. Does the address make sense? If any alarm bells start to ring, don’t click,” said van Vlaanderen.

2. Tax returns, invoices, wedding invitations – cybercriminals use them all
To a cybercriminal, nothing is sacred – wedding invitations, invoices and tax returns are all commonly used tactics. Always think hard before opening any attachment – even ones that seem to come from friends. It’s unlikely that SARS are asking you to refile your tax returns so please do not click.

3. Be extra careful around short URLs
If there isn’t a cap on the number of letters, why has someone shortened the link? You cannot take it for granted that URL shortening services are redirecting you to trustworthy websites.

4. Telephone numbers are not a guarantee an email is real
Do not trust professional looking emails where there is a phone contact number – this is often another cybercriminal trick. The number may work, but you will be connected to a scammer who will attempt to fool you into handing over further details.

5. Don’t auto-load images
Leave your email messages so your images aren’t automatically downloaded – otherwise you could be sending a signal to spammers. Images are often stored on the spammer’s servers and can be unique to your email. By turning on pictures in an email your computer downloads the images from the spammer’s servers, showing that you exist.

6. Is SARS really calling?
“It’s doubtful SARS will be calling you and they definitely are not going to offer any sort of gift card for filing early. If you get weird emails or phone calls, ignore them, or hang up. Always follow your gut.”

7. Encryption is the only way to go
If you file online look for encrypted websites. Make sure the website your visiting has HTTPS in front of the URL. Typically, it will have a green or grey lock showing it’s a secure connection. The last thing you want to do is share your extremely private information associated with taxes unless you’re on an encrypted website.

8. Did someone beat you to filing your tax return?
Identity theft is growing. In the USA alone, almost 60 million people have been affected – that is more than 1 in every 6 Americans. Cybercriminals will use any opportunity to monetise the effort they have taken to steal an identity, and at this time of year it’s probably tax identity theft for the purposes of tax refund fraud.

The cybercriminal’s target is not only the individual but also the tax professionals who prepare and file taxes for many clients potentially providing a single place for a cybercriminal to gain all the necessary data to file returns for many individuals.

It’s important that good data security practices and technology are in place for both individuals and tax professionals and are reviewed for effectiveness on a frequent basis.

“The next time a person or website requests personal data, ask some questions – do they really need it, how long will they store it, will it be protected, do I trust them to secure it?” said Van Vlaanderen. “The collection of personal data is, for some, a business that provides great rewards – as consumers we need to engage in the protection of our identity by being less willing to hand over our data to just about anyone who requests it.”

In a nutshell, to protect yourself, use up-to-date security software as offered by ESET, strong and unique passwords or passphrases, and encryption; and avoiding phishing scams by checking links and following your gut.

Reporting scams to the relevant authorities allows them to ascertain the scale of the issue and potentially track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

To find out more about ESET online security offerings, pleas click here. For more information on ESET, please visit their website, or follow them on Instagram and Facebook for updates and news.

According to a recent MyBroadband article,  Telkom has fallen victim to the group behind the Sodinokibi ransomware, also known as REvil.

The group has claimed responsibility for the attack and has threatened to leak the Telkom client database on its the Dark Web blog.

The REvil / Sodinokibi group is one of several ransomware operators that steals sensitive data from victims and leaks it on the dark web if their targets don’t give in to their extortion demands.

The group has recruited a team of affiliates who carry out attacks on corporate networks.

According to speculation, the group may have tried to extort $1-million out of Telkom.

The company denied that its systems had been infected with ransomware.

Staff working remotely were unable to connect to servers or the Telkom virtual private network.

 

By Davey Winder for Forbes

At the start of May, I reported on a critical security vulnerability that could impact every Samsung Galaxy smartphone sold from late 2014 onwards. That zero-click bug scored a perfect 10 on the vulnerability severity scale. The good news was that it had been patched in the Samsung May 2020 security update. Just as Android users were recovering from that security shocker, and some have yet to get that update on their devices, it should be noted, along comes one more.

This time it’s in the form of another critical vulnerability, but rather than applying to Samsung devices only, it’s an issue that exists in almost every version of Android. Only users of Android 10 need have no concern here, all other versions of Android, however, are potentially affected. Given that, in April, Android 10 only accounted for around 16% of users, and Google itself says there are at least 2 billion Android users out there, that’s north of 1 billion Android devices potentially at risk.

The risk being that, if exploited by an attacker, this vulnerability could lead to an elevation of privilege and give that hacker access to bank accounts, cameras, photos, messages and login credentials, according to the researchers who uncovered it. What’s more, it could do this by assuming “the identity of legitimate apps while also remaining completely hidden.”

What is StrandHogg 2.0?
Researchers at a Norwegian security company called Promon discovered CVE-2020-0096, which they called StrandHogg 2.0: the more cunning “evil twin” to the original Android StrandHogg vulnerability it also found last year. “While StrandHogg 2.0 also enables hackers to hijack nearly any app,” the researchers said, “it allows for broader attacks and is much more difficult to detect.”

Rather than exploit the same TaskAffinity control setting as the original StrandHogg vulnerability, StrandHogg 2.0 doesn’t leave behind any markers that can be traced. Instead, it uses a process of “reflection,” which allows it to impersonate a legitimate app by using an overlay into which the user actually enters credentials. But that’s not all; it also remains entirely hidden in the background while hijacking legitimate app permissions to gain access to SMS messages, photos, phone conversations, and even track GPS location details. Using the “correct per-app tailored assets,” the Promon researchers said, StrandHogg 2.0 can “dynamically attack nearly any app on a given device simultaneously at the touch of a button.”

Stealthier than your average StrandHogg
Detection would also appear to be more complicated than the previous StrandHogg vulnerability. “No external configuration is required to execute StrandHogg 2.0, it allows the hacker to further obfuscate the attack,” the researchers said, “as code obtained from Google Play will not initially appear suspicious to developers and security teams.”

However, Google told TechCrunch, which broke the StrandHogg 2.0 news, that it had not seen any evidence of the vulnerability being exploited to date. I reached out to Google and a spokesperson told me: “We appreciate the work of the researchers, and have released a fix for the issue they identified. Additionally, Google Play Protect detects and blocks malicious apps, including ones using this technique.” The latter being important as exploitation of the vulnerability requires the device to already be infected by a malicious app.

How can you mitigate this critical Android vulnerability?
It’s not all bad news for Android users, though. Those with devices running Android 10 are not impacted. There’s more good news for those of you who are, however, running Andorid 9 or earlier, as Google included a patch for CVE-2020-0096 in the May 2020 Android security update. It was described there as a critical vulnerability that could enable a local attacker to use a specially crafted file to execute arbitrary code within the context of a privileged process. The usual fractured ecosystem warnings from me have to be flagged up at this point: many users will not see that update rolling out to them immediately, and some may never see it at all if they have an older unsupported device.

Tod Beardsley, research director at Rapid7, said that “since the fix for this bug is part of the core Android operating system, Android users are once again at the mercy of their handset manufacturers and their service providers, who are often slow to act when it comes to distributing security patches. People who are worried about this bug in particular should keep a close eye on when the fix for CVE-2020-0096 hits their particular distribution.”

“Attackers looking to exploit StrandHogg 2.0 will likely already be aware of the original StrandHogg vulnerability, and the concern is that when used together, it becomes a powerful attack tool for malicious actors,” Tom Lysemose Hansen, Promon CTO and founder, said. He recommends Android users update to the latest firmware as soon as they can, and advises app developers to “ensure that all apps are distributed with the appropriate security measures in place in order to mitigate the risks of attacks in the wild.”

“Android device users need to be cautious of the apps they choose to install. Even as Google works to protect their users, malicious apps will still likely slide past their screening process on occasion,” Boris Cipot, a senior security engineer at Synopsys, said. “One way that users can stay alert and mindful is to do a bit of research on the app developers before downloading a given app. Check where the app comes from and if anything seems off, then think twice before proceeding with installation,” Cipot concluded.

Promon has issued a disclosure timeline, which shows it notified Google of the vulnerability on December 4, 2019, and an ecosystem partner patch was rolled out in April 2020 before the public fix within the latest Android security updates for users.

SA sees spike in network attacks

According to Kaspersky, a major spike in network attacks took place in South Africa last week. Affected devices increased from 20,000-30,000 to about 310,000 in the period spanning from 15 – 21 March.

This has coincided with an increase in remote working in the country, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced first a National State of Disaster and then a 21-day lockdown.

“Remote working provides cybercriminals a prime opportunity to target devices, especially those that don’t necessarily have adequate IT security measures in place,” Maher Yamout, senior security researcher for the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky, said in an interview with MyBroadband.

“Such a spike recorded, although temporary, leads us to believe that cybercriminals have keenly been focused on the region given the current circumstances.”

Protecting your networking during lockdown

Kaspersky provided a variety of tips employees should follow when working remotely during the impending lockdown:

  • Make use of a VPN to connect securely to the corporate network
  • Use multi-factor authentication wherever possible
  • Ensure all corporate devices – including mobiles, laptops and tablets are protected with adequate security software
  • Segregate your personal devices/life from corporate computers
  • Ensure the latest available updates are installed regularly
  • Only use corporate-approved teleconferencing software
  • Practice basic cybersecurity rules

 

Beware of these corona-related scams

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) has warned bank clients that cybercriminals are exploiting the current “Coronamania” panic to spread Coronavirus scams.

Coronavirus scams exploit people’s concerns for their health and safety and pressure them into being tricked using social engineering. Social Engineering is manipulative and exploits human vulnerability because criminals know that the weakest link in the information security chain is the human being.

These new scams include spoofed emails offering products such as masks, or fake offerings of vaccines, leading to phishing websites. These emails come from seemingly realistic and reputable companies which manipulate people into clicking on links. Some of these websites prompt the user for personal information which ending up in the hands of cybercriminals.

Cybercriminals are also using SMS Phishing, more commonly known as SMishing, to trick victims into clicking on a link disguised as information on a Coronavirus breakout in their area to steal their credentials. Some of these texts claim to provide free masks or pretend to be companies that have experienced delays in deliveries due to the Coronavirus.

Once criminals have the correct level of confidential information about a victim’s bank account, they can impersonate the victim and transact using the correct credentials but without authority.

“Although some spoofed emails can be difficult to identify, we urge bank clients to think twice before clicking on any link, even if an email looks legitimate. Any suspicious emails should not be opened and are best deleted,” says SABRIC acting CEO, Susan Potgieter.

SABRIC urges bank clients to take note of the following tips to protect themselves:

Phishing and SMishing

  • Do not click on links or icons in unsolicited emails
  • Never reply to these emails. Delete them immediately
  • Do not believe the content of unsolicited emails blindly. If you are concerned about what is being alleged in the email, use your own contact details to contact the sender and confirm
  • Check that you are on the authentic/real site before entering any personal information
  • Do not click on links or icons in unsolicited SMSs
  • Do not reply to these SMSs. Delete them immediately
  • Do not believe the content of unsolicited SMSs blindly. If you are worried about what is alleged, use your own contact details to contact the sender to confirm
  • Regard urgent security alerts, offers or deals as warning signs of a hacking attempt

Source: Fin24

An infamous Russian-speaking hacking group – referred to as Silence – is the likely culprit making thousands of attempts to hack major banks in sub-Saharan Africa, cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs said on Monday.

The group is called Silence because of the silent monitoring done via their malware. They have already carried out a number of successful campaigns targeting banks and financial organisations around the globe.

According to Kaspersky, the typical scenario of an attack begins with a social engineering scheme, as attackers send a phishing e-mail that contains malware to a bank employee.

From there, the malware gets inside the banks’ security perimeter and lays low for a while, gathering information on the victim organisation by capturing screenshots and making video recordings of the day-to-day activity on the infected device.

“Once attackers are ready to take action, they activate all capabilities of the malware and cash out using, for example, ATMs. The score sometimes reaches millions of dollars,” says Kaspersky.

“The attacks detected began in the first week of January 2020 and indicated that the threat actors are about to begin the final stage of their operation and cash out the funds. To date, the attacks are ongoing and persist in targeting large banks in several SSA countries.”

Kaspersky accordingly advises financial organisations to introduce basic security awareness training for all employees so that they can better distinguish phishing attempts. Banks should also monitor activity in enterprise information systems and prepare an incident response plan to be ready for potential incidents in the network environment.

In August 2019 Kaspersky reported a cyber attack in which South Africa was apparently among 17 countries targeted by North Korean hackers, related to the activity of the so-called Lazarus group. They also targeted banks and other financial institutions.

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