Man Ordered to Pay $8.6 Million for Launching DDoS Attacks against Rutgers University

A New Jersey man received a court order to pay $8.6 million for launching a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Rutgers University.

On October 26, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp to Paras Jha, 22, of Fanwood, New Jersey.

According to court documents, Jha targeted Rutgers University with a series of DDoS attacks between November 2014 and September 2016. The attacks took down the education institution’s central authentication server that maintains the gateway portal used by staff, faculty and students. In so doing, the DDoS campaigns disrupted students’ and faculty members’ ability to exchange assignments and assessments.

The FBI assisted Rutgers in its investigation of the attacks. In August 2015, the university also hired three security firms to test its network for vulnerabilities.

Jha’s criminal efforts online didn’t stop at Rutgers. In the summer and fall of 2016, Jha created the Mirai botnet with Josiah White, 21, of Washington, Pennsylvania and Dalton Norman, 22, of Metairie, Louisiana. The trio spent the next few months infecting more than 100,000 web-connected devices. They then abused that botnet to commit advertising fraud.

In December 2017, the three individuals pleaded guilty in the District of Alaska for conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act by operating the Mirai botnet. It was less than a year later that a federal court in Alaska ordered the men to serve five-year probation periods, complete 2,500 hours of community service, pay restitution in the amount of $127,000 and voluntarily relinquish cryptocurrency seized by law enforcement during an investigation of their crimes.

Judge Shipp passed down his sentence to Jha within a Trenton federal court. As part of that decision, Jha must serve six months of home incarceration, complete five years of supervised release and perform 2,500 hours of community service for violating the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act.

Source: https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/security-data-protection/man-ordered-to-pay-8-6-million-for-launching-ddos-attacks-against-rutgers-university/

How to secure your online business from cyber threats?

Ecommerce revenue worldwide amounts to more than 1.7 trillion US dollars, in the year 2018 alone. And the growth is expected to increase furthermore.

However, with growth comes new challenges. One such problem is cybersecurity. In 2017, there were more than 88 million attacks on eCommerce businesses. And a significant portion includes small businesses.

Moreover, online businesses take a lot of days to recover from the attacks. Some businesses completely shut down due to the aftermath of the security breaches.

So, if you are a small business, it is essential to ensure the safety and security of your eCommerce site. Else, the risks pose a potential threat to your online business.

Here we discuss some basics to ensure proper security to your eCommerce site.

Add an SSL certificate

An SSL Certificate ensures that the browser displays a green padlock or in a way shows to the site visitors that they are safe; and that their data is protected with encryption during the transmission.

To enable or enforce an SSL certificate on your site, you should enable HTTPS—secured version of HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP)—across your website.

In general, HTTP is the protocol web browsers use to display web pages.

So, HTTPS and SSL certificates work hand in hand. Moreover, one is useless without the other.

However, you have to buy an SSL certificate that suits your needs. Buying a wrong SSL certificate would do no good for you.

Several types of SSL certificates are available based on the functionality, validation type, and features.

Some common SSL certificates based on the type of verification required are:

  1. Domain Validation SSL Certificate: This SSL certificate is issued after validating the ownership of the domain name.
  2. Organization Validation SSL Certificate: This SSL certificate additionally requires you to verify your business organization. The added benefit is it gives the site visitors or users some more confidence. Moreover, small online businesses should ideally opt for this type of SSL certificate.
  3. Extended Validation SSL Certificate: Well, this type of SSL certificate requires you to undergo more rigorous checks. But when someone visits your website, the address bar in the browser displays your brand name. It indicates users that you’re thoroughly vetted and highly trustworthy.

Here are some SSL certificate types based on the features and functionality.

  1. Single Domain SSL Certificate: This SSL certificate can be used with one and only one domain name.
  2. Wildcard SSL Certificate: This SSL certificate covers the primary and all the associated subdomains.
    Every subdomain along with the primary domain example.com will be covered under a single wildcard SSL certificate.
  3. Multi-Domain SSL Certificate: One single SSL certificate can cover multiple primary domains. The maximum number of domains covered depends on the SSL certificate vendor your purchase the certificate from. Typically, a Multi-Domain SSL Certificate can support up to 200 domain names.

Nowadays, making your business site secure with SSL certificate is a must. Otherwise, Google will punish you. Yes, Google ranks sites with HTTPS better than sites using no security.

However, if you are processing online payments on your site, then SSL security is essential. Otherwise, bad actors will misuse your customer information such as credit card details, eventually leading to identity theft and fraudulent activities.

Use a firewall

In general, a firewall monitors incoming and outgoing traffic on your servers, and it helps you to block certain types of traffic—which may pose a threat—from interacting or compromising your website servers.

Firewalls are available in both virtual and physical variants. And it depends on the type of environment you have in order to go with a specific firewall type.

Many eCommerce sites use something called a Web Application Firewall (WAF).

On top of a typical network firewall, a WAF gives more security to a business site. And it can safeguard your website from various types of known security attacks.

So, putting up a basic firewall is essential. Moreover, using a Web Application Firewall (WAF) is really up to the complexity of the website or application you have put up.

Protect your site from DDoS attacks

A type of attack used to bring your site down by sending huge amounts of traffic is nothing but denial-of-service-attack. In this attack, your site will be bombarded with spam requests in a volume that your website can’t handle. And the site eventually goes down, putting a service disruption to the normal/legitimate users.

However, it is easy to identify a denial-of-service-request, because too many requests come from only one source. And by blocking that source using a Firewall, you can defend your business site.

However, hackers have become smart and highly intelligent. They usually compromise various servers or user computers across the globe. And using those compromised sources, hackers will send massive amounts of requests. This type of advanced denial-of-service attack is known as distributed-denial-of-service-attack. Or simply put a DDoS attack.

When your site is attacked using DDoS, a common Firewall is not enough; because a firewall can only defend you from bad or malicious requests. But in DDoS, all requests can be good by the definition of the Firewall, but they overwhelm your website servers.

Some advanced Web Application Firewalls (WAF) can help you mitigate the risks of DDoS attacks.

Also, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can detect them and stop the attacks from hitting your website servers. So, contact your ISP and get help from them on how they can protect your site from DDoS attacks.

If you need a fast and straightforward way to secure your website from distributed-denial-of-service attacks, services like Cloud Secure from Webscale Networks is a great option.

In the end, it is better to have strategies in place to mitigate DDoS attacks. Otherwise, your business site may go down and can damage your reputation—which is quite crucial in the eCommerce world.

Get malware protection

A Malware is a computer program that can infect your website and can do malicious activities on your servers.

If your site is affected by Malware, there are a number of dangers your site can run into. Or, the user data stored on your servers might get compromised.

So, scanning your website regularly for malware detection is essential. Symantec Corporation provides malware scanning and removal tools. These tools can help your site stay safe from various kinds of malware.

Encrypt data

If you are storing any user or business related data, it is best to store the data in encrypted form, on your servers.

If the data is not encrypted, and when there is a data breach, a hacker can easily use the data—which may include confidential information like credit card details, social security number, etc. But when the data is encrypted, it is much hard to misuse as the hacker needs to gain access to the decryption key.

However, you can use a tokenization system. In which, the sensitive information is replaced with a non-sensitive data called token.

When tokenization implemented, it renders the stolen data useless. Because the hacker cannot access the Tokenization system, which is the only component that can give access to sensitive information. Anyhow, your tokenization system should be implemented and isolated properly.

Use strong passwords

Use strong passwords that are at least 15 character length for your sites’ admin logins. And when you are remotely accessing your servers, use SSH key-based logins wherever possible. SSH key-based logins are proven to be more secure than password-based logins.

Not only you, urge your site users and customers to use strong password combinations. Moreover, remind them to change their password frequently. Plus, notify them about any phishing scams happening on your online business name.

For example, bad actors might send emails to your customers giving lucrative offers. And when a user clicks on the email, he will be redirected to a site that looks like yours, but it is a phishing site. And when payment details are entered, the bad actor takes advantage and commits fraudulent activities with the stolen payment info.

So, it is important to notify your user base about phishing scams and make your customers knowledgeable about cybersecurity.

Avoid public Wi-Fi networks

When you are working on your business site or logging into your servers, avoid public wifi networks. Often, these networks are poorly maintained on the security front. And they can become potential holes for password leaks.

However, public wifi networks can be speedy. So, when you cannot avoid using a public wifi network, use VPN services like ProtonVPN, CyberGhost VPN, TunnelBear VPN, etc, to mitigate the potential risks.

Keep your software update

To run an online business, you have to use various software components, from server OS to application middleware and frameworks.

Ensure that all these components are kept up to date timely and apply the patches as soon as they are available. Often these patches include performance improvements and security updates.

Some business owners might feel that this is a tedious process. But remember, one successful cyber attack has the potential to push you out of business for several days, if not entirely.

Conclusion

In this 21st century, web technology is growing and changing rapidly. So do the hackers from the IT underworld.

The steps mentioned above are necessary. But we cannot guarantee that they are sufficient. Moreover, each business case is different. You always have to keep yourself up to date. And it would help if you took care of your online business security from time to time. Failing which can make your business site a victim of cyber attacks.

Source: https://londonlovesbusiness.com/how-to-secure-your-online-business-from-cyber-threats/

Travel staff are the weakest link in cybersecurity, says expert

Travel industry staff are the “weakest link” in the fight against cybercrime, a security expert has warned.

Cyber consultant Bruce Wynn said cybercrime attacks risked bringing down entire businesses.

He was speaking at the launch of anti-fraud group Profit’s Secure Our Systems campaign, backed by Travel Weekly.

Wynn, who has 40 years’ cybersecurity experience and is one of several experts supporting the seven-week campaign, which aims to give the industry the tools to fight cybercrime, said: “The weakest link in any cybersecurity chain is the thing that fills the space between the keyboard and the floor.”

There was a 92% rise in the number of cyberattack reports made to Action Fraud between January 2016 and September 2018, from 1,140 to 2,190, according to The City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. Reports of hacking, in which fraudsters gain unauthorised access to data, saw the biggest increase, up 110%.

Wynn believes all travel firms will have experienced cyberattacks but some may not know it.

“You need to have planned well ahead for what you will do when you do discover you’ve been attacked, including how to recover from some of the damage that will have been caused,” he said.

He said a ransomware attack, for example, could be “catastrophic” as a company could lose all data without an adequate data recovery plan. It could also face a GDPR fine.

“It will cost you big time if criminals get into your system and even just corrupt your information to the point you can no longer do business confidently,” he warned.

Other threats include cloned websites, impersonating chief executives and insider fraud, with criminals using techniques such as phishing and hacking to get into companies’ computer systems to steal money or information.

Wynn said one of the most productive attacks is spear phishing, which targets an individual for sensitive or confidential information and often relies on the vulnerability of the person involved.

“The bad guys are going to get in and they will do damage,” he said. “Who are your staff going to call? Your troops need to know how to detect something suspicious, and what to do.

“Computer technicians can try to ‘backstop’ some of it, but staff need to be educated and trained and get a professional to assess how their business can best manage its risk in terms of cybercrime as part of its wider risk assessments.”

At the very minimum all companies should have up-to-date systems in place with anti-virus and anti-fraud software and back-up programs that are regularly tested to ensure any data lost can be recovered.

Wynn believes 80% of attacks can be mitigated at “almost zero cost” to businesses. “Thirty minutes now [on planning] could save lots of money, embarrassment, legal costs and even your business, later on,” he said.

Wynn recommended free resource Cyber Essentials, at cyberessentials.ncsc.gov.uk. The government-backed scheme offers guidelines on self-assessment and access to professional advice on cyber security.

What are the cyber threats?

Here are some common terms for malicious technology and fraudulent activity.

DDoS attack – a distributed denial-of-service attack is where multiple computers flood a server, website or network with unwanted traffic to make it unavailable to its intended users temporarily or indefinitely.

Ransomware – a type of malicious software (malware), usually deployed through spam or phishing, designed to block access to a computer system, typically by encryption, until a sum of money is paid. It can be spread through email attachments, infected software apps, compromised websites and infected external storage devices. Famous examples include the WannaCry attack last year.

Rootkits – a set of software tools that enable an unauthorised user to take over a computer system without detection.

Trojan – type of malicious software often disguised as a legitimate app, image, or program. Typically users are tricked into loading and putting Trojans on their systems.

Viruses – a piece of computer code capable of copying itself, normally deployed through a spam or phishing attack that typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system, stealing, or destroying data.

Worms – self-replicating malware that duplicates itself to spread to uninfected computers.

CEO fraud – a senior executive in a company is impersonated to divert payments for products and services to a fraudulent bank account. Typically the fraud will target the company’s finance department via email or over the telephone.

Account takeover fraud – a form of identity theft in which the fraudster accesses the victim’s bank or credit card accounts through a data breach, malware or phishing, to make unauthorized transactions.

Insider fraud – when an employee uses his or her position in an organization to steal money or information to threaten security

Cloned websites – when a fraudster copies or modifies an existing website design or script to create a new site in order to steal money.

Phishing – when emails purport to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Spearphishing – email scam targeted to one specific individual, organisation or business often to steal sensitive information for malicious purposes. These purport to be from someone you know and use your name.

SMiShing (or SMS phishing) – type of phishing attack where mobile phone users receive text messages with a website hyperlink which, if clicked on, will download a Trojan horse (malicious software) to the phone.

Hacking – unauthorised intrusion into a computer or network.

Bot– a computer infected with software that allows it to be controlled by a remote attacker. This term is also used to refer to the malware itself.

Exploit kit – code used to take advantage of vulnerabilities in software code and configuration, usually to install malware. This is why software must be kept updated.

Keylogger – a program that logs user input from the keyboard, usually without the user’s knowledge or permission, often using memory sticks on laptop ports.

Man-in-the-Middle Attack – similar to eavesdropping, this is where criminals use software to intercept communication between you and another person you are emailing, for example when you are using third-party wi-fi in a café or on a train.

Source: http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/articles/314616/travel-staff-are-the-weakest-link-in-cybersecurity-says-expert

Over third of large Dutch firms hit by cyberattack in 2016 – CBS

Large companies are hit by cyberattacks at an above average rate, according to the Cybersecurity Monitor of Dutch statistics bureau CBS for 2018. Among companies of 250+ employees, 39 percent were hit at least once by a cyberattack in 2016, such as a hack or DDoS attack. By contrast, around 9 percent of small companies (2-10 employees) were confronted with such an ICT incident.

Of the larger companies, 23 percent suffered from failure of business processes due to the outside cyberattacks. This compares to 6 percent for the smaller companies. Of all ICT incidents, failures were most common, for all sizes, though again, the larger companies were more affected (55%) than the smaller ones (21%). The incidents led to costs for both groups of companies.

Chance of incident bigger at large company

CBS noted that ICT incidents can arise from both from an outside attack and from an internal cause, such as incorrectly installed software or hardware or from the unintentional disclosure of data by an employee. The fact that larger companies suffer more from ICT incidents can be related to the fact that more people work with computers; this increases the chance of incidents. In addition, larger companies often have a more complex ICT infrastructure, which can cause more problems.

The number of ICT incidents also varies per industry. For example, small businesses in the ICT sector (12%) and industry (10%) often suffer from ICT incidents due to external attacks. Small companies in the hospitality sector (6%) and health and welfare care (5%) were less often confronted with cyberattacks.

Internal cause more common at smaller companies

Compared to larger companies, ICT incidents at small companies more often have an internal cause: 2 out 3, compared to 2 out of 5 for larger companies. ICT incidents at small companies in health and welfare care most often had an internal cause (84%). In the ICT sector, this share was 60 percent.

About 7 percent of companies with an ICT incident report them to one or more authorities, including police, the Dutch Data Protection Authority AP, a security team or their bank. The largest companies report ICT incidents much more often (41%) than the smallest companies (6%). Large companies report these ICT incidents most frequently to the AP, complying with law. After that, most reports are made to the police. The smallest companies report incidents most often to their bank.

Smaller: less safe

Small businesses are less often confronted with ICT incidents and, in comparison with large companies, take fewer security measures. Around 60 percent of small companies take three or more measures. This goes to 98 percent for larger companies.

Source: https://www.telecompaper.com/news/over-third-39-of-large-dutch-firms-hit-by-cyberattack-in-2016-cbs–1265851

The FBI Is Investigating More Cyberattacks in a California Congressional Race

The hacks — first reported by Rolling Stone — targeted a Democratic candidate in one of the country’s most competitive primary races

WASHINGTON — The FBI has opened an investigation into cyberattacks that targeted a Democratic candidate in a highly competitive congressional primary in southern California.

As Rolling Stone first reported in September, Democrat Bryan Caforio was the victim of what cybersecurity experts believe were distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks. The hacks crashed his campaign website on four separate occasions over a five-week span, including several hours before the biggest debate of the primary race and a week before the election itself, according to emails and other forensic data reviewed by Rolling Stone. They were the first reported instances of DDoS attacks on a congressional candidate in 2018.
Caforio was running in the 25th congressional district represented by Republican Rep. Steve Knight, a vulnerable incumbent and a top target of the Democratic Party. Caforio ultimately finished third in the June primary, failing to move on to the general election by several thousand votes.

“I’m glad the FBI has now launched an investigation into the hack,” Caforio tells Rolling Stone in a statement. “These attacks put our democracy at risk, and they’ll keep happening until we take them seriously and start to punish those responsible.”

It was unclear from the campaign’s data who launched the attacks. But in early October, a few weeks after Rolling Stone’s report, Caforio says an FBI special agent based in southern California contacted one of his former campaign staffers about the DDoS attacks. The FBI has since spoken with several people who worked on the campaign, requested forensic data in connection with the attacks and tasked several specialists with investigating what happened, according to a source close to the campaign.

According to the source, the FBI has expressed interest in several details of the DDoS attacks. The bureau asked about data showing that servers run by Amazon Web Services, the tech arm of the online retail giant, appear to have been used to carry out the attacks. The FBI employees also seemed to focus on the last of the four attacks on Caforio’s website, the one that came a week before the primary election.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

A DDoS attack occurs when a flood of online traffic coming from multiple sources intentionally overwhelms a website and cripples it. The cybersecurity company Cloudflare compares DDoS to “a traffic jam clogging up a highway, preventing regular traffic from arriving at its desired destination.” Such attacks are becoming more common in American elections and civic life, according to experts who monitor and study cyberattacks. “DDoS attacks are being used to silence political speech and voters’ access to the information they need,” George Conard, a product manager at Jigsaw, a Google spin-off organization, wrote in May. “Political parties, campaigns and organizations are a growing target.”

Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, told Rolling Stone last month that his company had noticed an increase in such attacks after 2016 and the successful Russian operations on U.S. soil.

“Our thesis is that, prior to 2016, U.S.-style democracy was seen as the shining city on the hill. The same things you could do to undermine a developing democracy wouldn’t work here,” Prince says. “But after 2016, the bloom’s off the rose.”

The FBI has since created a foreign influence task force to combat future efforts to interfere and disrupt U.S. elections.

Southern California, in particular, has seen multiple cyberattacks on Democratic congressional candidates during the 2018 midterms. Rolling Stone reported that Hans Keirstead, a Democratic candidate who had challenged Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), widely seen as the most pro-Russia and pro-Putin member of Congress, had been the victim of multiple hacking efforts, including a successful spear-phishing attempt on his private email account that resembled the 2016 hack of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Hackers also reportedly broke into the campaign computer of Dave Min, another Democratic challenger in a different southern California district, prompting the FBI to open an investigation.

On Friday, the nation’s four top law enforcement and national security agencies — the FBI, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — released a joint statement saying there were “ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran” that include interference in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Cybersecurity experts and political consultants say there are many reports of hacking attempts on 2018 campaigns that have not been publicized. But the proximity of the attacks is significant because Democrats have a greater chance of taking back the House of Representatives if they can flip multiple seats in Southern California.

Source: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/california-congressional-race-hack-745519/

Cybercrime-as-a-Service: No End in Sight

Cybercrime is easy and rewarding, making it a perfect arena for criminals everywhere.

Over the past 20 years, cybercrime has become a mature industry estimated to produce more than $1 trillion in annual revenues. From products like exploit kits and custom malware to services like botnet rentals and ransomware distribution, the breadth of cybercrime offerings has never been greater. The result: more, and more serious, forms of cybercrime. New tools and platforms are more accessible than ever before to those who lack advanced technical skills, enabling scores of new actors to hop aboard the cybercrime bandwagon. Meanwhile, more experienced criminals can develop more specialized skills in the knowledge that they can locate others on the darknet who can complement their services and work together with them to come up with new and better criminal tools and techniques.

Line Between Illicit and Legitimate E-Commerce Is Blurring
The cybercrime ecosystem has evolved to welcome both new actors and new scrutiny. The threat of prosecution has pushed most cybercrime activities onto the darknet, where the anonymity of Tor and Bitcoin protects the bad guys from being easily identified. Trust is rare in these communities, so some markets are implementing escrow payments to make high-risk transactions easier; some sellers even offer support services and money-back guarantees on their work and products.

The markets have also become fractured, as the pro criminals restrict themselves to highly selective discussion boards to limit the threat from police and fraudsters. Nevertheless, a burgeoning cybercrime market has sprung from these hidden places to offer everything from product development to technical support, distribution, quality assurance, and even help desks.

Many cybercriminals rely on the Tor network to stay hidden. Tor — The Onion Router — allows users to cruise the Internet anonymously by encrypting their activities and then routing it through multiple random relays on its way to its destination. This circuitous process renders it nearly impossible for law enforcement to track users or determine the identities of visitors to certain black-market sites.

From Niche to Mass Market
In 2015, the UK National Cyber Crime Unit’s deputy director stated during a panel discussion that investigators believed that the bulk of the cybercrime-as-a-service economy was based on the efforts of only 100 to 200 people who profit handsomely from their involvement. Carbon Black’s research discovered that the darknet’s marketplace for ransomware is growing at a staggering 2,500% per annum, and that some of the criminals can generate over $100,000 a year selling ransomware kits alone. That’s more than twice the annual salary of a software developer in Eastern Europe, where many of these criminals operate.

There are plenty of ways for a cybercriminal to rake in the cash without ever perpetrating “traditional” cybercrime like financial fraud or identity theft. The first way is something called research-as-a-service, where individuals work to provide the “raw materials” — such as selling knowledge of system vulnerabilities to malware developers — for future criminal activities. The sale of software exploits has captured much attention recently, as the ShadowBrokers and other groups have introduced controversial subscription programs that give clients access to unpatched system vulnerabilities.

Zero-Day Exploits, Ransomware, and DDoS Extortion Are Bestsellers
The number of discovered zero-day exploits — weaknesses in code that had been previously undetected by the product’s vendor — has dropped steadily since 2014, according to Symantec’s 2018 Internet Security Threat Report, thanks in part to an increase in “bug bounty” programs that encourage and incentivize the legal disclosure of vulnerabilities. In turn, this has led to an increase in price for the vulnerabilities that do get discovered, with some of the most valuable being sold for more than $100,000 in one of the many darknet marketplaces catering to exploit sales, as highlighted in related a blog post on TechRepublic. Other cybercrime actors sell email databases to simplify future cybercrime campaigns, as was the case in 2016 when 3 billion Yahoo accounts were sold to a handful of spammers for $300,000 each.

Exploit kits are another popular product on the darknet. They provide inexperienced cybercriminals with the tools they need to break into a wide range of systems. However, Europol suggests that the popularity of exploit kits has fallen over the past 12 months as the top products have been eliminated and their replacements have failed to offer a comparable sophistication or popularity. Europol also notes that theft through malware was generally becoming less of a threat; instead, today’s cybercriminals prefer ransomware and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) extortion, which are easier to monetize.

Cybercrime Infrastructure-as-a-Service
The third way hackers can profit from more sophisticated cybercrime is by providing cybercrime infrastructure-as-a-service. Those in this field are provide the services and infrastructure — including bulletproof hosting and botnet rentals — on which other bad actors rely to do their dirty work. The former helps cybercriminals to put web pages and servers on the Internet without having to worry about takedowns by law enforcement. And cybercriminals can pay for botnet rentals that give them temporary access to a network of infected computers they can use for spam distribution or DDoS attacks, for example.

Researchers estimate that a $60-a-day botnet can cause up to $720,000 in damages on victim organizations. The numbers for hackers who control the botnets are also big: the bad guys can produce significant profit margins when they rent their services out to other criminals, as highlighted in a related post.

The New Reality
Digital services are often the backbone of small and large organizations alike. Whether it’s a small online shop or a behemoth operating a global digital platform, if services are slow or down for hours, the company’s revenue and reputation may be on the line. In the old days, word of mouth circulated slowly, but today bad news can reach millions of people instantly. Using botnets for DDoS attacks is a moneymaker for cybercriminals who extort money from website proprietors by threatening an attack that would destroy their services.

The danger posed by Internet of Things (IoT) botnets was shown in 2016 when the massive Mirai IoT botnet attacked the domain name provider Dyn and took down websites like Twitter, Netflix, and CNN in the largest such attack ever seen. Botnet use will probably expand in the coming years as cybercriminals continue to exploit vulnerabilities in IoT devices to create even larger networks. Get used to it: Cybercrime is here to stay.

Source: https://www.darkreading.com/endpoint/cybercrime-as-a-service-no-end-in-sight/a/d-id/1333033

Has a BOT Network Compromised Your Systems?

BOT networks have surprisingly penetrated many corporate networks around the world. Yet many of the information technology and security operations teams often have difficulty identifying their activity and eliminating them from the network. The term botnet is derived from the combination of the words robot and network. A cybercriminal creates a network of these robots connected together for the purposes of coordinating some large-scale activity, most often to function as a cyberattack tool for cybercriminals. These activities often include the propagation of attacker malware tools, economic gain, or perhaps targeting a debilitating attack upon one or more websites on the internet, effectively harming revenue and reputation for enterprise organizations and online e-tailers. The larger the botnet, the more effective it can be in achieving the desired goal. Botnets spread via malware, often distributed through malicious email, and may also be self-propagating so that they move laterally from your laptop to other workstations and network devices within the network. Alternately, they can infect your laptop when you visit a compromised website, setting in motion a series of malicious events that result in a compromised system (drive-by download) and automatically installing the botnet software unbeknownst to the owner of that system. Very typically, due to a lack of effective cyber defense for both detection and remediation, cybercriminals find undefended internet of things (IoT) devices to be ideal hosts to harbor and hide their botnet malware. These IoT hosts can include the new generation of IoT enabled devices such as smart refrigerators, security cameras, digital video records, network connected access management systems, thermostats, and much more. Enterprise security departments are often surprised to find that their access management systems and security cameras are completely compromised by such botnets. The most common indicator is users complaining that computer programs are running much more slowly. This is an often key warning sign that hidden botnets or other malware are using your computing resources. More subtly, you may notice that your cooling fans are running when you are not actively using your computers or servers. This may be symptomatic of the considerable computational overhead created by botnets heating up the processor boards. Finally, on your Windows endpoint platforms, failure to shut down properly, or at all, or failure to download updates are other key indicators, any of which by themselves may not confirm the presence of a botnet, but together raise the suspicions to a high level. Some of your employees might also see unknown posts placed on their Facebook accounts. This might also be directly related to botnet activity. Cybercriminals can use social media accounts to easily disseminate malicious content. Conceptually, this social media botnet attack is very different than infecting your computer. By infecting your social media account, the botnet can propagate more rapidly across your entire social media account and never has to physically sit on your laptop or other home computers. Botnets usually work through automation set up, of course, by cybercriminals you don’t know. Key symptoms are almost always technology related – not related to insider activity or insider malicious threats. Beyond the symptoms already mentioned above, there are also technical indicators, such as strange processes running under windows, but these are very hard to detect. As quickly as cyber defense automation and tools evolve, so do the tactics, techniques, and procedures of the botnet cyberthieves. Most botnets don’t damage the host computers – most of what they do is degrade your performance and effectively “steal” your computer resources. More dangerous is the damage the cyberattackers can cause by using the botnet to maliciously target other websites. For example, when they launch a denial of service (DDOS) attack. Several best practices can help cut down or eliminate botnet infections and the secondary attacks that may be launched once an attacker has access to your networks through a botnet. These include: Utilize software that filters or cuts down on suspicious email attachments and don’t click on any links which are suspicious; Make sure your operating systems have all patches and updates installed; Keep your antivirus protection up to date – these often have the signatures of known and recent botnet malware components; and Encrypt your data end-to-end (at rest, in use, and in transit) so that an attacker in your network will be unable to make use of it.

Source: https://securityboulevard.com/2018/10/has-a-bot-network-compromised-your-systems/

Central planning bureau finds Dutch cybersecurity at high level

Dutch businesses and the public sector are well protected against cybersecurity threats compared to other countries, according to a report from the Central Planning Bureau on the risks for cybersecurity. Dutch websites employ encryption techniques relatively often, and the ISPs take measures to limit the impact of DDoS attacks, the report said.

Small and medium-sized businesses are less active than large companies in protecting their activities, employing techniques such as data encryption less often, the CPB found. This creates risks for small business and consumers that could be avoided.

The report also found that the Dutch are more often victims of cybercrime than other forms of crime. This implies a high cost for society to ensure cybersecurity. In 2016, already 11 percent of businesses incurred costs due to a hacking attempt.

The threat of DDoS attacks will only increase in the coming years due to the growing number of IoT devices. This was already evident in the attacks against Dutch bank websites earlier this year. A further risk is that over half the most important banks in the world use the same DDoS protection service.

According to the paper Financieele Dagblad, this supplier is Akamai. The company provides DDoS protection for 16 of the 30 largest banks worldwide. The Dutch banks ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank said they were not dependent on a single provider.

The CPB report also found that the often reported shortage of qualified ICT staff is less of a threat than thought. The number of ICT students has risen 50 percent in four years and around 100,000 ICT jobs have been added in the country since 2008. Already 5 percent of all jobs are in ICT. This puts the Netherlands at the top of the pack in Europe, alongside the Nordic countries.

Source: https://www.telecompaper.com/news/central-planning-bureau-finds-dutch-cybersecurity-at-high-level–1264818

‘Torii’ Breaks New Ground For IoT Malware

Stealth, persistence mechanism and ability to infect a wide swath of devices make malware dangerous and very different from the usual Mirai knockoffs, Avast says.

A dangerous and potentially destructive new IoT malware sample has recently surfaced that for the first time this year is not just another cheap Mirai knockoff.

Researchers from security vendor Avast recently analyzed the malware and have named it Torii because the telnet attacks through which it is being propagated have been coming from Tor exit nodes.

Besides bearing little resemblance to Mirai in code, Torii is also stealthier and more persistent on compromised devices. It is designed to infect what Avast says is one of the largest sets of devices and architectures for an IoT malware strain. Devices on which Torii works include those based on x86, x64, PowerPC, MIPS, ARM, and several other architectures.

Interestingly, so far at least Torii is not being used to assemble DDoS botnets like Mirai was, or to drop cryptomining tools like some more recent variants have been doing. Instead it appears optimized for stealing data from IoT devices. And, like a slew of other recent malware, Torii has a modular design, meaning it is capable of relatively easily fetching and executing other commands.

Martin Hron, a security researcher at Avast says, if anything, Torii is more like the destructive VPNFilter malware that infected some 500,000 network attached storage devices and home-office routers this May. VPNFilter attacked network products from at least 12 major vendors and was capable of attacking not just routers and network attached storage devices but the systems behind them as well.

Torii is different from other IoT malware on several other fronts. For one thing, “it uses six or more ways to achieve persistence ensuring it doesn’t get kicked out of the device easily on a reboot or by another piece of malware,” Hron notes.

Torii’s modular, multistage architecture is different too. “It drops a payload to connect with [command-and-control (CnC)] and then lays in wait to receive commands or files from the CnC,” the security researcher says. The command-and-control server with which the observed samples of Torii have been communicating is located in Arizona.

Torii’s support for a large number of common architectures gives it the ability to infect anything with open telnet, which includes millions of IoT devices. Worryingly, it is likely the malware authors have other attack vectors as well, but telnet is the only vector that has been used so far, Hron notes.

While Torii hasn’t been used for DDoS attacks yet, it has been sending a lot of information back to its command-and-control server about the devices it has infected. The data being exfiltrated includes Hostname, Process ID, and other machine-specific information that would let the malware operator fingerprint and catalog devices more easily. Hron says Avast researchers aren’t really sure why Torii is collecting all the data.

Significantly, Avast researchers discovered a hitherto unused binary on the server that is distributing the malware, which could let the attackers execute any command on an infected device. The app is written in GO, which means it can be easily recompiled to run on virtually any machine.

Hron says Avast is unsure what the malware authors plan to do with the functionality. But based on its versatility and presence on the malware distribution server, he thinks it could be a backdoor or a service that would let the attacker orchestrate multiple devices at once.

The log data that Avast was able to analyze showed that slightly less than 600 unique client devices had downloaded Torii. But it is likely that the number is just a snapshot of new machines that were recruited into the botnet for the period for which Avast has the log files, the security vendor said.

Source: https://www.darkreading.com/attacks-breaches/-torii-breaks-new-ground-for-iot-malware/d/d-id/1332930

190 UK Universities Targeted with Hundreds of DDoS Attacks

  • A large number of security attacks have been targeting universities all over the UK.
  • Over 850 DDoS attacks were analyzed across 190 universities.
  • Security experts suspect students or staff to be behind the large-scale attacks.

Over 850 DDoS attacks have taken place in the United Kingdom, that have targeted 190 universities in the 2017-2018 academic year. Security researchers from JISC studied all of the reported attacks and have found clear patterns that tie all of the attacks.

JISC is responsible for providing internet connectivity to UK research and education institutions. After a thorough analysis of all attacks during the past academic year, their study reveals that the attackers are most likely staff or students who are associated with the academic cycle. JISC came to this conclusion because the DDoS activity sees noticeable drops during holidays at universities. More importantly, most of the attacks were centered around the university working hours of 9 am to 4 pm local time.

Frequency of Cyberattacks against UK Universities
Image Courtesy of JISC

Head of JISC’s security operations center John Chapman revealed “We can only speculate on the reasons why students or staff attack their college or university – for the ‘fun’ of disruption and kudos among peers of launching an attack that stops internet access and causes chaos, or because they bear a grudge for a poor grade or failure to secure a pay rise”.

One of the DDoS attacks lasted four days and was sourced to a university’s hall of residence. A larger dip in attacks was noticed this summer compared to the summer of 2017. With an international law enforcement operation going into effect against the number one DDoS-for-hire online market. The website being taken down led to a massive drop in the number of DDoS attacks globally, which indicates that the attacks on the UK universities were not done by professional hackers working with a personal agenda, but hired professionals.

The motive behind these DDoS attacks is unknown, and it may serve as a cover for more sinister cybercriminal activity. Universities often store valuable intellectual property which makes them prime targets for many hackers.

Source: https://www.technadu.com/190-uk-universities-targeted-hundreds-ddos-attacks/42816/