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Security

Cybercriminal Monday: remote employees and retailers take caution

For the last 10+ years, the post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza known as Black Friday has courted crowds and controversy, with major retailers deciding to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day to mobs of rabid customers looking for deep discounts.

This year, things look a little different. While some doors will open on Black Friday, many shoppers will choose to look for deals online instead. And even though online shopping will protect consumers from catching COVID-19, there’s no guarantee they won’t pick up a different kind of virus — and pass it on to corporate networks.

Conversely, online retailers and organizations with ecommerce platforms should take extra precautions this year, as cybercriminals have already ramped up their attacks on a wide variety of shopping sites.

Watch out for Black Friday and Cyber Monday pitfalls

As the nation heads into a holiday season on lockdown, we once again face norms-defying circumstances: Thanksgiving gatherings will be much smaller and Black Friday will likely have crowds rushing to their laptops instead of their local malls.

Since the start of the pandemic, online spending has increased by 75 percent. Ecommerce cybercrime has followed suit, with a 25 percent rise in credit card skimming observed in the first month of the pandemic alone. Scams laced with COVID-19 misinformation have tricked thousands into giving out their personal and business data or led to infections of home and corporate networks. And ransomware attacks have taken advantage of a vulnerable and distributed workforce. All this means the stakes are even higher for the coming week of holiday shopping.

In fact, expect stores to extend Black Friday deals through the month and beyond, luring shoppers repeatedly back to their ecommerce pages for maximum return on investment. But the old methods for staying safe while online shopping are not all relevant in today’s threat landscape. For organizations with remote employees who may also use their work device for personal use (or personal device for work activities), it’s prudent to send out reminders this holiday shopping season to keep personal business — especially online purchases — separate from business business. Here are a few you can send to your staff:

  • Just because a website uses HTTPS and has a padlock does not mean it is safe. It simply means that the connection is secure between a particular server and who the website claims to be. But it’s easy for cybercriminals to spoof legitimate sites and have your information be sent to them over a secure connection. All the padlock guarantees is that other cybercriminals can’t interrupt the exchange.
  • To protect against web skimmers, consider equipping personal devices with antivirus software that has web protection, or browser extensions that block malicious content. All work devices should be protected with the same.
  • Avoid clicking directly on targeted ads for a particular deal. Online ads could contain exploits delivered via malvertising, which could deliver malicious payloads or divert users to scam pages. If there’s an ad for a great deal, go directly to the retailer’s website instead.
  • Do not use public WiFi to shop online. Also avoid using the company’s VPN for that purpose. The best bet is to shop from a password-secured home network or to purchase your own VPN for home use.

In addition, online retailers and other ecommerce sites should take particular precautions over the next month to protect against web skimmers or other online attacks. Here’s my advice for staying secure:

  • Keep your site updated to protect against cybercriminals who would exploit vulnerabilities, and that includes shoring up weak code. Make sure any admin access to the site’s backend is protected with a strong, rotating password.
  • Make sure any third parties, including Content Management Systems (CMSes), financial transaction partners, or even libraries of code are free from known vulnerabilities by running all updates or cross-checking code for mistakes.
  • Take preventative measures by implementing safeguards, such as a Content Security Policy (CSR) and Subresource Integrity (SRI).

Best wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

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Security

Brute force attacks increasing on open RDP ports

Ever watch a procedural cop show where the lead detective is some kind of password savant? Then you know this scene: The detective walks into a suspect’s apartment, finds a locked computer, and, after his partner complains they’ll need NSA hackers to get in, cracks the tricky password in a single try. While I love a good Hollywood cybersecurity gaffe, the truth is Detective Special Skills actually would have a decent chance at getting into that computer if he knew the suspect’s name and attempted using a few of the most popular default passwords today. (I’m looking at you, 1-2-3-4-5.)

But let’s say this suspect is a little more tech savvy and has a stronger, unique password in place. That’s game over, right? No getting in? Unfortunately for us good guys trying to protect our personal or business data, the answer is no. By using brute force attacks that automate trial and error, cybercriminals are able to run thousands or even millions of username and password combinations until they crack the code for credentials.

COVID-19’s grip on the global workforce has remained tight for nearly three quarters, keeping the majority of corporate employees—including technicians, security, and IT staff—confined to their homes. The repercussions of ongoing work-from-home conditions continue to be felt, especially a generally weaker security posture for all organizations, the natural result of having a distributed workforce. One such repercussion is a massive increase in open RDP ports, from 3 million in January 2020 (pre-Covid) to 4.5 million in March (post-Covid).

Cybercriminals of course pounced immediately, and to our detriment, they keep throwing everything they’ve got at us. COVID-19 misinformation, scams, social engineering laced with malware, Emotet and more of its friends, digital card skimmers, targeted ransomware attacks, and now brute force attacks, which themselves are methods of endless, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink attack.

Brute force attacks are typically automated or conducted via application, which allows threat actors to “set it and forget it,” coming back to their target once the app notifies them of a successful crack of the desired credentials. And lately, they’ve been cracking open a lot of RDP ports, exposed to the Internet so that remote workers can access company resources from home or IT staff can troubleshoot employee devices remotely.

Once cybercriminals have brute forced their way into an open RDP port, they can launch ransomware attacks, install keyloggers or other spyware on target organizations, or conduct espionage or extortion—pretty much a nightmare scenario. To protect against brute force attacks and shield RDP ports, I recommend:

  • Limiting the number of open ports
  • Restricting access to RDP ports to only those that need it
  • Enhancing security of the port and the protocol (with security software that blocks malicious IPs from compromised servers, for example)
  • For remaining RDP port users, disabling legacy usernames, rotating passwords, and enabling 2FA

At Malwarebytes, we’re now exploring new protective features to combat rising brute force attacks on open RDP ports. Stay tuned for some news on that soon!

To learn more about brute force attacks on the rise and how to protect open RDP ports, read our blog on Malwarebytes Labs: https://blog.malwarebytes.com/exploits-and-vulnerabilities/2020/10/brute-force-attacks-increasing/

For advice on how to protect RDP access from ransomware attacks: https://blog.malwarebytes.com/security-world/business-security-world/2018/08/protect-rdp-access-ransomware-attacks/

And for a refresher on best security practices for all work-from-home employees: https://blog.malwarebytes.com/how-tos-2/2020/03/security-tips-for-working-from-home-wfh/

Categories
Security

Covid fatigue causes careless behavior, endangers online safety

Because it’s not bad enough that we’ve had to shelter in place, shut down businesses, and stay away from friends and families for months. Now we learn that our natural response to this stress—a type of emotional exhaustion medical professionals call Covid fatigue—puts us in danger, too. Great. Might as well give up now.

The above paragraph is a meta example of Covid fatigue… or at least the beginnings of it. The defeatist attitude is a telltale symptom of this type of fatigue, which should not be mistaken for the fatigue that can sometimes be a symptom of Covid-19 infection. Covid fatigue is instead defined as feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the conditions brought on by the pandemic and the ever-changing list of rules to follow in order to stay safe.

Those with Covid fatigue are less likely to follow basic social protocols for protecting against the virus. And that, unfortunately, spills over into their online habits as well.

For many of you in IT and security, a lightbulb may have already flickered on. Covid fatigue sounds awfully similar to security fatigue or alert fatigue. Indeed, it’s the exact same principle. And if you’re catching on to how emotional fatigue can lead to self-destructive behavior online (like reusing passwords or exercising less caution opening emails, for example), then guess who else knows?

The most successful threat actors study user psychology so their social engineering tactics can be believable. And those threat actors have been clued into Covid fatigue for a while now.

It’s most important, then, that IT and security leaders guide their employees in fighting back against possible online attacks, remembering basic security hygiene, and combatting emotional fatigue. The last item may require help from your people operations teams, but will ultimately lead to a happier, healthier workforce with energy in reserves.

There’s so much uncertainty with this virus, and that contributes to Covid fatigue, too. But if there’s one thing we can be sure about, it’s that battling this pandemic—and the one we’re facing online—is a marathon, not a sprint.

Read on to learn how to cope with Covid fatigue and stay safe online: https://blog.malwarebytes.com/malwarebytes-news/2020/10/how-covid-fatigue-puts-your-physical-and-digital-health-in-jeopardy/

For background on security fatigue: https://blog.malwarebytes.com/101/2017/04/how-to-fight-security-fatigue/

To see what Johns Hopkins recommends for fighting Covid fatigue: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/how-to-deal-with-coronavirus-burnout-and-pandemic-fatigue

On alert/notification fatigue: https://betanews.com/2020/07/09/security-report-alert-fatigue/