Endpoint Security

RansomwareThe word “ransomware” terrifies individuals and organisations alike. We look at how this threat works - and how to fight it!

The ransomware mood music isn’t good this year. As security publications and commentators tell us, ransomware is expected to dominate the malware arena in 2017.

More than ever, then, security partners need to offer sound, confident advice to end-users on both the nature of ransomware, and how to defend against it.

So look no further!

Ransomware: how it works

Ultimately, the aim of ransomware is to paralyse companies’ operations, usually by encrypting data, then demanding money to decrypt it and render it usable again.

For security partners and their customers, one of the challenges with ransomware is that it can enter the network through many different routes – malicious links or infected file attachments in emails, drive-by attacks triggered by a visit to an infected website or ad, botnets, USB drives, Yahoo Messenger images… the penetration potential is extremely high.

But to rub salt into it, ransomware also dodges many of the traditional anti-virus defences.

It disguises filenames and attributes and hides behind legitimate file extensions. And it often uses secure communications protocols like https and Tor, and encrypts its communications as it goes, obscuring the tell-tale server calls that would ordinarily betray its presence.

What this means is that most anti-virus protection is none the wiser to the threat – and so the latter finds its target, which is usually the most critical data the business holds. (Indeed, the notorious Cryptolocker ransomware, as this blog, from Bitdefender, explains, hunted out 70 different specific file extensions, precisely for this reason).

Ransomware: how to stop it

A threat that can infect via so many different channels, and hide its tracks whilst it’s doing it, clearly can’t be stopped by a single “silver bullet.”

It can only be stopped by layered protection that detects and blocks at all the levels at which ransomware can penetrate and spread.

Research carried out by Trend Micro has found that 99% of over 99 million ransomware attacks were found in malicious email or web links, so robust defence at the email and web gateway level, as well as at the endpoint and network levels, are a must.

Protecting email and web traffic from ransomware

Analysis is the key here; in the absence of the normal malware “cues” that signal a threat, security solutions have to look harder, deeper and wider for signs of the miscreants.

This means not just analysing links in the body of an email, for example, but also the links in the attachments that that email contains – as well as the attachments themselves.

It means scanning for zero-day and browser exploits, and other favoured ransomware entry points that are buried in applications (such as within Office 365 – 2 million threats discovered to date, according to Trend Micro!), rather than just in links or attachments.

And it means both being able to instantly compare links with a global database of known malicious URLs, and automatically rewrite links (as we discussed in this post) to divert them into a sandbox and analysis environment.

There, they can be triggered and inspected at no risk - even if they are not “known suspects.”

Protecting endpoints from ransomware

But what if the threat enters the network from an endpoint, like a PC – triggered, perhaps, by an infected document on a USB stick?

Actually, it’s at this level that some of the most useful indicators of ransomware behaviours – rapid encryption of multiple files, for example, or exploit kits that look for unpatched software vulnerabilities, as a prelude to sending ransomware through them – can be detected.

A security solution that can isolate the endpoint can stop the ransomware from spreading further via the network. And on that point…

Protecting networks from ransomware

The network itself must of course be protected.

But network traffic flows across myriad nodes, ports and protocols, so security must be capable of identifying ransomware and attacker behaviour in and across each of these sub-layers.

Here, too the sandbox analysis that we mentioned above is a powerful resource, mirroring the actual network environment so that the presence of typical ransomware behaviours can be accurately tracked and their effect (and therefore likely objective) revealed.

And blocked!

Ransomware immunisation: using the threat against itself

But one of the slickest anti-ransomware developments we’ve seen recently is a “vaccine”, which literally uses the ransomware’s own programming against it.

Ransomware typically prevents a machine it has already infected from playing host to any other infection that could interfere with the ransomware’s own endgame.

But this same feature, deployed on uninfected machines, effectively blocks the ransomware itself, as we have previously described in this post. So, does this mean ransomware is finally hoist by its own petard?

I wouldn’t bet on it. But by sharing knowledge about how ransomware works, how we can defeat it, and where businesses and security partners can go for more advice, we make every hostage that bit more difficult to take.

And that’s a ransomware result.

End of Road for McAfee Email Security SolutionsAs many McAfee security products slide into end-of-life, we take a look at how it could affect end-users, MSPs and resellers.

Forgive us for being forward, here, but if you didn’t read our last post on the McAfee security products that have entered, or are entering, end-of-life (EOL), you probably need to.

Just to recap, many McAfee EOL products simply don’t have a like-for-like migration path, according to McAfee’s own EOL support pages. In fact, many of them apparently don’t have a migration path at all, and those that do have a distinctly oblique one, involving renamed products and (presumably more expensive) updates.

So if you’re a McAfee end-user, are you worried? If you’re a McAfee MSP or reseller, should you be worried, too?

Worry is never helpful – so here are the plain facts about the McAfee EOL products and how their withdrawal will ultimately affect end-users, MSPs and resellers alike.

Which McAfee products does this EOL problem affect?

Since Intel’s acquisition of McAfee in 2011, there has been a concerted focus on EOL-ing those products that are not core to Intel’s strategy, and so the complete list is a long one.

But three that we think will grab most end-users’ and partners’ attention are:

  • Email Gateway
  • Enterprise Mobility Management
  • Endpoint Encryption

What will this mean for end-users and partners?

Bluntly, whether you’re an end-user or a security partner, EOL means what it says on the tin, or at least in the McAfee end-of-life policy; support for the software product simply stops (“Support contracts cannot extend beyond the end-of-life date”).

Support, of course, includes patches – a critical weapon in the struggle to keep security software updated against new or emerging threats – and so a security product kept in service beyond its EOL date is likely to rapidly become no kind of security product at all.

Map the McAfee products that are going / have gone EOL to the current risk profile of the cyber threat universe and the picture looks even more alarming.

  • McAfee is EOL-ing Email Gateway, yet… malware analysis in this publication shows email-borne malware hit 705 million quarantined messages from just one security vendor in just one month of 2015 alone!
  • McAfee is EOL-ing Enterprise Mobility Management, a solution that enables IT teams and security providers to keep large-scale official and unofficial mobile use in large businesses secure - yet McAfee also admits that the unique mobile malware samples collected in its own laboratories increased 72% from Q3 to Q4 in 2015!
  • McAfee is EOL-ing Endpoint Encryption, yet… the loss or breach of customer data from a mislaid or stolen device that this kind of technology can prevent is about to become a source of huge financial risk to businesses because of the draconian provisions of the forthcoming GDPR legislation!

In short, McAfee are pulling the plug exactly where the bad guys are starting to focus most attention – and that can only end badly for end-users and partners alike.

 But MSPs and resellers can get custom support, right?

Don’t you bet on it. Although custom support, beyond the EOL date, is theoretically available, it’s on McAfee’s say-so – reseller, MSP, end-user or whoever else you are. As they state in their policy, it is “an exception”, not the rule.

Clearly, it also costs. Not only that, it requires an existing current and continuous support contract to be in place, provides only limited content updates, for a limited time period, and with specific terms and conditions.

(Oh, and it never covers hardware of any kind, even if you bought the original solution on a hardware platform).

Does all this infuse the need to migrate to other solutions with a certain sense of urgency?

What happens next?

But knowing you have to migrate is little use if you don’t have any help as to where you might migrate to.

In the last blog in this series, we’ll be exploring some of the other security vendors’ offerings, and discussing whether they’re a good fit for partners and end-users looking to leave McAfee’s EOL products behind.

Keep watching!

McAfee - End of service warning

A raft of McAfee products have gone into end-of-life (EOL) since Intel took over. We look into the issues this is likely to create, now and in the immediate future.

It’s been six years since Intel bought McAfee, during which the company has pursued an aggressive end-of-life (EOL) policy across its product range, unleashing what IT publication CRN called “waves of uncertainty” in its core markets.

A visit to McAfee’s EOL support pages reveals a current drop-down menu listing scores of products that have been put into, or are scheduled to be put into, EOL - meaning no further availability of technical support and essentially, therefore, the impending end of the product’s viability for end-users and partners alike.

And although clear migration paths are available for some of these products, for others they are conspicuous by their absence, or are simply replaced by a (presumably more expensive) “upgrade”.

The outcome is inescapable: multiple security solutions are no longer available from McAfee, and each case of EOL leaves a hole that both end-users and security partners will potentially need to look elsewhere to fill.

McAfee EOL: the critical list

Regrettably, the EOL products that appear to have no clear migration path are also the ones that cover the truly critical threat vectors like networks (Asset Manager), email (Email Gateway), mobile devices (Enterprise Mobility Management), and data protection (Endpoint Encryption).

Unfathomably, even Content Security Suite, which combines many of these defences in one convenient package, is destined for the axe.

Intel spoke of “tough tradeoffs” in making these EOL decisions, but the reality is that they have proven – and will continue to prove - tougher still for customers and partners.

The apparent absence of clarity regarding the migration path from one product to a subsequent version or replacement spells disruption, whichever way you slice it.

Should end-users (and partners) simply trust that Intel will come up with something better? Should they be looking to other vendors? If so, which?

And should they seize the simplicity of “going direct”, where available, or should they source the products through a distributor, where the added link in the supply chain could bring value-adds like services, support, consulting, rewards and benefits, and the like?

Beyond McAfee EOL: what next?

Two points are worth noting here.

Firstly, at least some of McAfee’s products won’t go into EOL for a short while yet - so there is breathing space to find and trial alternatives.

Secondly, the security market is evolving fast. Established players like McAfee are coming under pressure from a swathe of specialist security vendors, including the new “big names” like Trend Micro, as well as agile arrivals like Bitdefender, Malwarebytes and others. Essentially, when McAfee stops delivering, there is no shortage of vendors who could potentially step in.

Watch this space for our next blog, which will explore some of the most compelling post-McAfee options for resellers, MSPs and end-users alike.

virtual-cloud

Bitdefender have announced that its GravityZone solution is now certified by VMWare and has achieved the VMware Ready status.

What this means?

Organisations can now enable agentless scanning on guest virtual machines via NSX introspection, which eliminates the overheads that can be seen when running a separate instance of the agent in each VM.  It also offers increased resilience against APT's which target the security solution.

Enterprise Customers now have access to a new and proactive approach for securing Datacenters and their Network Virtualisation environments.

From Kirsten Edwards, Director, Technology Alliance Partner Program, VMware

“We are pleased that the Bitdefender GravityZone qualifies for the VMware Ready™ logo, signifying to customers that it has met specific VMware interoperability standards and works effectively with VMware cloud infrastructure. This signifies to customers that GravityZone can be deployed in production environments with confidence and can speed time to value within customer environments,”

Harish Agastya, Vice President, Enterprise Solutions, Bitdefender

“Data centers are the heart of the digital economy, and security is paramount for data center operators across the world. The VMware Ready certification marks another step in our commitment to provide security that is easy to deploy and scale, and meets the unique requirements of today’s highly virtualized environments. Our award-winning security solution leverages NSX capabilities in the software-defined data center to provide automated deployment and orchestration of security services,”

About VMware Ready

vmware_readyVMware Ready is a cobranding benefit of the Technology Alliance Partner (TAP) program which makes it easy for customers to identify partner products which have been certified to work within the VMware Cloud infrastructure.  With thousands of members worldwide, TAP includes best of breed technology partners who bring the highest expertise and business solutions for each individual customer.

About Bitdefender GravityZone SVE

Bitdefender GravityZone SVE provide security for virtual machines, virtualised Datacenters and cloud instances, through the GravityZone On Premise console.

  • Best protection for Windows and Linux virtual machines: enabling real time scanning for file systems, processes, memory and registry
  • Best proven performance in datacenters: up to 20% performance improvement compared to traditional security vendors
  • Works on any virtualization platform: VMware, Citrix, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM, Oracle, and others on demand
  • Agentless security for VMware NSX

 

Keyboard equipped with a red ransomware dollar button.
Keyboard equipped with a red ransomware dollar button.

There has been report of several companies becoming infected by the Crysis Ransomware and as such we have had a look into what it does and how it can be prevented.

History

First detected in February 2016, this virus has multiple methods of infection typically an email which has attachments using double extensions to make them appear non-executable.  Although it has been seen to also come through SPAM emails and compromised websites.  There has also been reports that it has been distributed to online locations and shared networks disguised as an installer for various legitimate programs.

Description

Crysis Ransomware itself is capable of encrypting over 185 file types across fixed, removable and networks drives and uses RSA and AES encryption, once infected it will also look to delete the computers shadow copies.  Whilst also creating copies of itself into the following locations.

  • %localappdata%\­%originalmalwarefilename%.exe
  • %windir%\­system32\­%originalmalwarefilename%.exe

The virus will then look to create/edit certain registry keys to ensure it is run on each system start.

  • [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\­Software\­Microsoft\­Windows\­CurrentVersion\­Run]
    • "%originalmalwarefilename%" = "%installpath%\­%originalmalwarefilename%.exe"
  • [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\­Software\­Microsoft\­Windows\­CurrentVersion\­Run]
    • "%originalmalwarefilename%" = "%installpath%\­%originalmalwarefilename%.exe"

Finally after encryption there is a .txt file placed in the computers desktop folder, sometimes this accompanied by an image set as the desktop wallpaper.

  • %userprofile%\­Desktop\­How to decrypt your files.txt

There has also been reports of Crysis stealing data and credentials from the affected machines and passing these back to its Command and Control server.  This would then allow the computers and local networks that have been infected to become vulnerable to further attack if the credentials are not changed.

It has also been seen that Crysis will monitor and gather data gathered from IM applications, webcams, address books, clipboards and browsers prior to sending this to the C&C server with the windows variant stealing account and password credentials.

Prevention

To reduce the risk of infection we recommend the following

  • Ensure you are using an upto date AV product
  • Ensure any specific Ransomware prevention tools in the AV are used
  • Ensure you have a regular tested backup of the data
  • Educate users in the dangers of opening attachments from an unknown source

 

 

Bitdefender have updated their GravityZone cloud console with some new features over the weekend and here at Blue Solutions we are happy to guide you through these changes and how they will affect you and your customers.

Anti-Ransomware

The big news is that Bitdefender has now incorporated Anti Ransomware vaccine to all its cloud customers, and will be rolling this out through the on-premise version on Tuesday 27th Sep 2016.  This module is activated through the policy section  Antimalware --> On Access settings

Gravityzone Ransomware Vaccine Policy Setting
Gravityzone Ransomware Vaccine Policy Setting

By activating this module, machines will be protected from all currently known forms of Ransomware.

Other New Features

Update Rings - this feature allows Administrators of the program to  chose when in the validation cycle an update is received.

Anti-Exploit Techniques - a new set of powerful techniques which further enhances existing technologies to fight targeted attacks.  These are integrated into the existing Advanced Threat Control module.

Web Access Control Rules - The categories list has been updated with multiple new categories added.

Exchange Protection - This can now be enabled/disabled when editing a customer with a monthly license subscription.

 

The above features are now in place for all current users of Bitdefender Gravityzone in the cloud and will be rolled out to Bitdefender Gravityzone on-premise users from the 27th Sep 2016.

For more details on the above features and a look at the other features included please click here

logo     bs-logo

Over the last week we have seen an increase in the amount of companies receiving emails containing Zepto Ransomware, a file encrypting virus based on the infamous Locky cryptoware.
Most of the emails have been carefully crafted to ensnare the victims using social engineering techniques, typically greeting the recipient by first name and asking them to open an attachment which they had requested.
zepto image
The attachment will typically be either a .zip extension or .docm extension and once opened will run a malicious JavaScript which then encrypts all files on the users machine with the .zepto extension

To try and combat the infection, we offer the following advice
1. To protect against JavaScript attachments, tell Explorer to open .JS files with Notepad.
2. To protect against VBA malware, tell Office not to allow macros in documents from the internet.
3. Ensure your AntiMalware program is upto date
4. Ensure your users are careful with email attachments and only open the ones they are sure they have requested
5. If possible set email filtering to quarantine all .zip and .docm files

Brian-A-Jackson1

On a weekly basis there are now articles regarding a big brand company which has been hacked, these usually relate to what data has been lost, how they are notifying those affected and what they are going to be doing to prevent this from happening again.

So how do you prevent it from happening in the first place?

From experience I can see that if a hacker wants to get details from somewhere they will take the easiest target, the ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ as they say, in ensuring your company has some basic security principles in place can help mitigate this.

So how do you ensure you are not the ‘Low Hanging Fruit’

Simple measures can be taken within your environment to help secure it. As a basic level you should be meeting the following guide - CyberEssentials Requirements

This sets out some advice regarding Firewalls, User access control, Passwords, Malware protection and Patch management.

Once you have met the standards given within this document you should be looking to increase the security standards within your organisation. The most effective we have found is the use of education, once educated your staff will be able to react to the threats quicker and reduce the risks to your company.

security-banner

Our top security updates in the news and on the web this week

1.10 tips to avoid Cyber Monday scams

Shoppers familiar with the Cyber Monday circus know they’re stepping into the lion’s den. The Internet has always been a lawless place. First posted on Malwarebytes.

For the original post and further information click here

2. More POS malware, just in time for Christmas

Threat researchers are warning of two pieces of point of sales malware that have gone largely undetected during years of retail wrecking and now appear likely to earn VXers a haul over the coming festive break. First posted on The Register.

For the original post and further information click here

3. Some simple security advice for computer and smartphone users

Demonstrated how easy it can be to compromise users computers and 'steal' very personal video and photos, here's some really simple advice to help prevent this happening. First posted on Pen Test partners.

For the original post and further information click here

4. CryptoWall Updates, New Families of Ransomware Found

The ransomware threat isn't just growing—it's expanding as well. There has been a recent surge of reports on updates for existing crypto-ransomware variants. First posted on Trend Micro.

For the original post and further information click here

ransomware-update

5. Blast from the Past: Blackhole Exploit Kit Resurfaces in Live Attacks

The year is 2015 and a threat actor is using the defunct Blackhole exploit kit in active drive-by download campaigns via compromised websites. First posted on Malwarebytes.

For the original post and further information click here

6. Another Day, Another HMRC Tax Phish…

We could all do with a bit of a tax refund right before the festive season, and wouldn’t you know it. First posted on Malwarebytes.

For the original post and further information click here

7. Diving into Linux. Encoder’s predecessor: a tale of blind reverse engineering 

Linux.Encoder.1 has earned a reputation as the worlds first Ransomware family tailored for Linux platforms. First posted on Bitdefender Labs.

For the original post and further information click here

If you have any security news that you would like to see on our blog please send it to us at bluesolutions, please include the link from the original article in the email.

BD Banner for blog

Originally published on the Bitdefender website

No matter how valiant the efforts to secure their systems, or the amount of money spent on IT defenses – many of the same IT security challenges persist today as they always have.

Enterprises are behind in their ability to quickly detect data breaches. According to the 2015 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, the vast majority of organizations don’t detect breaches with days of occurring, no – the time to detect compromise is still too often measured in weeks, or months. And, depending on the study, security breaches can cost $100 per record and up.

As the sheer number of breaches, their duration, and their costs reveal in the past few years, enterprises can clearly do much better. But it’s not a matter of a quick fix. It’s not a single product deployment, or hiring to fill a few positions. There are, however, key areas that organizations can focus upon to close the gap between the ease in which attackers can exploit enterprise weaknesses and the ability for enterprises to defend their systems and data.

Here we go:

1. The security program informs the regulatory compliance program, not vice versa

Too many organizations today remain focused on maintaining their baseline security controls. They check their regulatory compliance check boxes and move on. Firewall: check. Network monitoring: check. Network segmentation: Should be in place, check. What lacks is a focus is making sure each of these functions is done right.

This needs to be flipped around. Enterprises need to build rugged security programs and build the reporting on top of those programs to feed into their regulatory compliance efforts.

2. Hire and cultivate the right security talent

In my interviews with CIOs and CISOs it’s clear, across the board, enterprises are hurting when it comes to finding skilled information security professionals. If you know device security, enterprise security architecture, are a pen tester, can manage or build a security program – you are not in want to job opportunities.

The challenge for enterprises is that technology and attack methods are moving so swiftly, that traditional education and corporate training programs don’t keep up. And, quite frankly, many HR departments in large enterprises don’t know how to hire well for information security positions. They rely too heavily on certifications and not enough of security problem solving skills. Traditional training doesn’t keep pace producing security skills needed with constant changes in mobility, cloud architectures, virtualization, containerization, Internet connected devices (IoT) and others.

Skilled security pros also tend to come from non-traditional backgrounds. They are liable to be the men and women with purple hair, lots of tattoos, and a scattered college history: but they know how to hack and many know how to help defend against hackers. But they are overlooked. This needs to change, and government and corporate enterprises need to rethink how they vet and view security talent. They need to consider training in-house talent that has an affinity to this field and wants to be trained.

3. Communicate in terms the business cares about

Today, too many security professionals think, and speak, in technical terms. Such as when they see a certain attack vector, they see a technical problem. And they are right, it is in fact a technical problem in most cases and can be remedied technically. But to business leaders and management it is a business risk. And business people want to understand things in business terms and business risks.

When most people suffer say, a car breakdown, they care more about losing the utility of the car than they care about the technical reason for the breakdown. When they ask technical questions about the nature of the mechanical failure, what is really going on in most people’s minds about the car is how the nature of that mechanical breakdown will impact the cost to fix. So that’s loss of utility and cost to get that utility back that matters to us most.

Business leaders, when it comes to IT, think no differently.
What is at stake with the risk, from a business perspective. How much will it cost to remedy. What is the cost of losing the utility? These are the terms more security people much speak in.

4. Shift some security focus to breach detection and response

With good reason, tens of billions of dollars have been invested by public agencies and private enterprise into traditional security defenses: the stuff geared to keep bad guys and things out. I’m not sure if enterprises have spent enough, or too much. That is certainly an interesting and debatable question. But I am sure we can’t count on it to work all of the time, every time.

Attackers are going to get through. There will be a misconfiguration they find, or there will be an employee who clicks on something they shouldn’t, or a trusted web site will serve malware and that breach will go undetected. Bad things are going to happen to enterprises that strive to protect themselves and do the right thing.

This is why more resources and effort needs to be focused on the ability to detect and respond to successful breaches. It makes sense to want to stop attacks. But like in American football, good defense wins games but it doesn’t win every game and even the best defenses are scored against.

Your information security defenses and efforts are no different.

Plan and put the resources in place to rapidly respond. It will mitigate the damage of successful breaches, and hopefully keep the costs of those breaches down, too.

5. Shift to data-driven security decisions

An important shift is one that has been widely talked about in security, but not always very pragmatically acted upon. Security pros need to stop working from a position of what they knew to work in the past, or their personal hunches, or providing the types of defenses the business thinks it needs.

To date, this hasn’t worked so well. We need to start making more data-driven decisions. If the business wants to invest in certain areas of security spending, perhaps that is the wisest move or perhaps it is not. Collecting the right data about the nature of the security controls in place, how well they are performing, as well as what has not been working well may provide better answers. Certainly the final decision about what spending will get done is up to the business, but by providing the right data you can help them make better decisions.

All the data needed is out there: the nature of the adversarial threats, the technical vulnerabilities, the value of the business data and services provided by critical applications, as well as the goings-on within the network and applications. It’s time this information be better collected, analyzed, and put to use to make the best data driven decisions possible.