Archive - November 2018

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Middle East, North Africa Cybercrime Ups Its Game
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The Nigerian Cyber Warfare Command: Waging War In Cyberspace
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Telcos struggling to mitigate the threats of cyber attacks
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SIDN, NBIP warn small businesses of increased risk of DDoS attacks
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Data will be flowing through the retail systems this Black Friday
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Universities seeing rise in DDoS attacks
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Players affected as online game ‘Final Fantasy XIV’ hit by ‘unprecedented’ cyberattacks
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30 years ago, the world’s first cyberattack set the stage for modern cybersecurity challenges

Middle East, North Africa Cybercrime Ups Its Game

Ransomware, DDoS extortion, and encrypted communications abound as cybercriminals in the region refine their tradecraft.

Ransomware infections increased by 233% this past year in the Middle East and North Africa as part of a shift toward more savvy and aggressive cybercrime operations in a region where criminals just last year mostly were sharing malware tools, phony documents, and services for free or on the cheap.

Researchers at Trend Micro found that cybercrime in the region has matured rapidly in the past year, with hackers employing the Telegram messaging app for encrypted communications and money-laundering services to replace rudimentary cash-out transaction methods that in many cases converted stolen physical items into cash. “The increase in money-laundering services also shows the demand for monetizing ill-gotten gains has increased over time,” says Jon Clay, global threat communications director at Trend Micro. “This all shows an increase in money-motivated cybercrimes within this region.”

The shift from email, Skype, and Facebook Messenger to Telegram as well as WhatsApp for encrypted communications and money-laundering schemes is about flying under the radar as the cybercrime gangs in the region have evolved into more experienced and lucrative operations. They now offer so-called broker services or “contracts” for moving money, using European banks, PayPal, Western Union, and banks in the region. They offer commissions between 10% to upward of 50% to convert stolen funds into a different currency, preferring to cash out in stronger currencies, such as the US dollar via US banks.

SQL injection tools, keyloggers, port numbers for Internet-connected SCADA equipment, and hacking instruction manuals all had been offered for free in the region’s underground in 2017, according to previous Trend Micro research. The WannaCry ransomware sample was sold for $50. Freely shared tools still exist there today, according to Clay, but the criminals are moving to more stealthy and secure infrastructures to hide their activities.

One of the biggest changes Trend Micro saw was the move from a tool that was “open source (and likely insecure) to a private communications tool,” he says. “This tool encrypts all communications between the members and can ensure law enforcement cannot access. This has provided the underground community with a much more secure and private means of communications.”

Aside from ransomware, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and website defacements remain a popular attack by hackers in the region. What was once the domain of hacktivists has become yet another money-making opportunity for cybercriminals to extort their victims with destructive attacks on their websites, for example.

The oil and gas industry remains one of the biggest targets in the region – half of all cyberattacks  hit that sector – due to its pervasiveness and financially lucrative status. These organizations can’t afford a ransomware or DDoS attack to disrupt sensitive operations. “These factors make it more likely that a compromised victim may pay an extortion or ransom fee,” Clay says.

Law enforcement, too, has matured in its fight against cybercrime, which, in turn, has forced attackers to better hide their tracks. So far, Trend Micro hasn’t detected any links between the cybercrime world there and nation-state operations. “In our analysis of the actors themselves, we’re seeing predominately young males with either a high school or college education. As such, they are likely very good with technology, aggressive in their work, but still need more time to build their skillsets,” Clay says.

Going Global
All of this means yet another international cybercrime region is emerging as a threat to nations such as the US. “This is a region that is increasing in their cybercriminal operations and will likely target organizations within the US,” Clay says. “With an increase in the US oil and gas industry, these actors are learning what works within their own region and can take that knowledge and apply it into attacks within the US region.”

They already are selling tools in both Arabic and English-speaking underground forums, notes Mayra Rosario Fuentes, senior threat researcher at Trend Micro. “They are no longer just targeting their own region.”

The Middle East and North Africa will become a bigger player in global cybercrime. “This should be a call for the regional law enforcement and government to improve their laws and ability to arrest and convict these criminals,” Clay says. “It is also a call for organizations to recognize this region as a threat to their operations and improve their security capabilities to thwart attacks from this region.”

Source: https://www.darkreading.com/vulnerabilities—threats/middle-east-north-africa-cybercrime-ups-its-game/d/d-id/1333354

The Nigerian Cyber Warfare Command: Waging War In Cyberspace

As the threat of state-sponsored cyber-attacks increases, multiple nations are putting together ‘cyber-armies’ able to fight back. The US Cyber Command was created in 2009 with the aim of defending the country’s infrastructure from attack. North Korea also has a cyber warfare unit and in the UK, it was recently revealed that the nation is increasing its ability to wage war in cyberspace with the creation of a new offensive force of up to 2,000 people.

Another country upping its game is Nigeria, which has itself suffered from numerous incidents of cyber-terrorism after jihadist militants Boko Haram migrated to the internet. The nation claims Boko Haram is leveraging social media for recruitment and was responsible for defacing the Defence Headquarters website. The group is also blamed for a hack on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) website on a presidential election day.

In 2016, the Nigerian Army announced plans to take the war against insurgency to the nation’s cyber space. The result is the Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare Command: 150 IT trained officers and men drawn from the corps and services in the Nigerian Army. Their aim: to monitor, defend and assault in cyberspace through distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on criminals, nation states and terrorists.

So what led to the setup of the Command? “There have been a lot of issues with Boko Haram and also general cybersecurity problems,” says Eric Vanderburg, vice president of cybersecurity at TCDI, who is also an author and speaker on information security. “Crime is widespread in Africa, but their economy is one of the largest.”

The Nigerian army says it has acquired state of the art technical equipment and experts from IBM are currently configuring its newly procured servers. With the capacity to protect the country’s critical infrastructure, the command will also monitor the Nigerian Army’s networks and advise field commanders on how to use the computer-based weapons systems.

But there will be challenges as the country tries to tackle years of crime taking place in cyberspace. For example, Nigeria is simply training existing officers who might have no previous knowledge or experience in cybersecurity.

“They are all former army and military personnel,” says Vanderburg. “But they really need – even if only for leadership – someone to provide that guidance and specific knowledge on some of the key areas to the new recruits to train them through a programme. I just don’t see how it could be effective without bringing in some experienced people.”

If there isn’t much action, Nigeria’s Command could be more about appearances. “I think it is posturing,” Vanderburg says. “They have resisted some of the cooperation from the US – we had the US-Africa Command, for example.”

In addition: “They have previously said they have eradicated the Boko Haram threat but it’s really still there beneath the surface,” Vanderburg points out. “I think that’s going to be a lot of what happens here: they will do something with the cyber command, maybe fix some small issue and declare the cyber problem fixed.”

Nigeria also wants to show criminals and other nations it is doing something about cybercrime in a country known for its scams and phishing emails. “I think there is going to be an increasing focus on Africa: with how many cyber-attacks are coming out of it and international pressure to solve the problem,” Vanderburg says.

Internationally, Vanderburg stresses the need for a group in each country as well as cooperation between nations. “Each country should have something that helps coordinate local resources in response to cyber threats, but those groups need to work together on an international scale to now identify the problem. If, for example, an event impacts five countries, each of those could then have local units able to respond it.”

Source:https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2018/11/26/the-nigerian-cyber-warfare-command-waging-war-in-cyberspace/#142d9f342fba

Telcos struggling to mitigate the threats of cyber attacks

EfficientIP’s 2018 DNS Threat Report has revealed telecom organisations took an average of 18 hours to mitigate each cyber attack.

The telecommunications sector ranks as one of the worst businesses sectors in its handling of cyber threats.

According to the report from EfficientIP, 43% of telco organisations suffered from DNS-based malware over the past 12 months. It was also highlighted that 81% took three days or more to apply a critical security patch after notification.

Time and money
DNS attacks cost telco organisations, like any other, significant time and money.

In general, telcos are taking too long to mitigate an attack; requiring an average of three employees to collectively spend over 17 hours per attack.

Due to how time-intensive the mitigation process can be, the report found that the average cost per DNS attack is rising for the telecommunications sector. Last year, a single DNS attack cost a telco organisation $622,100. This year the research shows telcos lose an average of $886,560 from each DNS attack, an increase of 42% in just 12 months.
Commenting on the reason behind these attacks, David Williamson, CEO of EfficientIP says: “Telco organisations attract complex, sophisticated cyber attacks as they hold sensitive customer data, and are also critical for providing unified communication services to businesses With a large part of their customer base operating online, strong network security has become a business necessity for the entire telco sector in general. Ensuring consistency and reliability in service is a crucial step towards providing elevated customer satisfaction.”

Reputational damage
The ramifications on telcos’ brands, while undergoing cyber attacks, is damaging.

Brand reputation was likely to suffer due to service issues:

• 45% had to close down specific affected processes and connections.
• 38% suffered cloud service downtime.
• 33% reported a compromised website.
• 31% endured in-house application downtime.
• 30% reported sensitive customer information stolen.

Recommendations for telcos
Working with some of the world’s largest telecommunication brands such as Orange and Vodafone to protect their networks, EfficientIP recommends five best practices:

• Rethink and simplify DNS architectures by replacing intermediary security layers with an adapted DNS security solution. As well as reducing administration and maintenance costs, this helps guarantee availability of service.

• Augment your threat visibility using real-time, context-aware DNS transaction analytics for behavioral threat detection. Businesses can detect all threat types, and prevent data theft to help meet regulatory compliance such as GDPR and US CLOUD Act.

• Apply adaptive countermeasures relevant to threats. The result is ensured business continuity, even when the attack source is unidentifiable, and practically eliminates risks of blocking legitimate users.

• Decentralise DNS architecture to cope with heavy growth of traffic. In addition to enhancing user experience, placing purpose-built, high performance DNS servers in points of presence significantly improves security against DDoS attacks.

• Incorporate DNS into a global network security solution to recognize unusual or malicious activity and inform the broader security ecosystem. This allows holistic network security to address growing network risks and protect against the lateral movement of threats.

Source: https://www.information-age.com/telcos-cyber-attacks-123476699/

SIDN, NBIP warn small businesses of increased risk of DDoS attacks

Small and medium-sized businesses are much more at risk of DDoS attacks than many think, according to research by the Dutch domain registrar SIGN and the internet providers group NBIP. The two groups conducted research on the .nl websites affected by such attacks and the organisations affected. In total, 237 DDoS attacks were identified in the year to June 2018.

Web shops selling consumer goods such as clothes, cosmetics and garden equipment have a bigger chance of being hit by DDoS attacks, the research found. On average the resulting damage costs EUR 1.8 million.

A common cause is the use of shared hosting. To save costs, small online sellers often share a server with other websites. They are then affected if another site on the server is hit by an attack. The chance of collateral damage is 35 times higher in such a case.

The public sector and larger banks remain the most likely target of direct attacks. The study estimates the direct damage cost EUR 59.6 million, while collateral effects cost another EUR 10 million.

The damages are based on the 237 attacks identified and estimates for the consequences if the attacks succeeded. If no protective measures are taken, the total cost to society from DDoS attacks is estimated at EUR 1 billion per year.

Source: https://www.telecompaper.com/news/sidn-nbip-warn-small-businesses-of-increased-risk-of-ddos-attacks–1269808

Data will be flowing through the retail systems this Black Friday

Resellers that support the retail sector will be keeping a keen eye on how their customers react to the huge amounts of data that will be generated this coming weekend.

Resellers selling into the retail sector are about to go through one of the most stressful weeks of the year as their customers gear up for Black Friday.

With this weekend marking one of the main moments consumers spend big before Christmas the emphasis might be on getting the best deals but for those with an eye on the IT the next few days is going to be about data.

On the one hand that means making use of the data around offers and stock to ensure that customers get current information about what a retailer can offer.

“Last year Black Friday itself was worth a total of £2.5bn in sales to the UK economy. However, if retailers fail to stand out against the intense competition, Black Friday could well be a Bleak Friday for them,” said Chris Haines, director of consulting at Amplience.

“To make the most out of the week and the increasingly important Cyber Monday, retailers should be focusing on their digital content. Retail is steadily marching towards the web, and Black Friday this year will be fought out online and on mobile,” he added.

But it is also about ensuring that data is protected, particularly over some of the busiest days of the year.

“Thanks to the popularity of ecommerce sites and credit card payments, the Black Friday shopping season has become synonymous with a peak in credit card thefts, site spoofing and DDoS attacks. It’s as much an occasion for cyber criminals as it is for consumers looking for a bargain,” said Spencer Young, rvp EMEA at Imperva.

“Retailers must also take responsibility for investing time and effort in testing their security measures ahead of the season,” he added.

There are also dangers that some retailers will get caught out by different shopping patterns and Ajmal Mahmood, customer solution architect, KCOM, warned against wrongly interpreting the sales the go through the tills.

“Buying habits change during big sales events, with some consumers making more impulse purchases, some stocking up on discounted items and some simply shopping as usual. It’s prudent for retailers to isolate the data collected during sales events, to ensure that they don’t significantly affect their personalisation algorithms across the year,” he said.

Source: https://www.computerweekly.com/microscope/news/252452793/Data-will-be-flowing-through-the-retail-systems-this-Black-Friday

Universities seeing rise in DDoS attacks

Kaspersky Lab has noticed an overall decline in the number of DDoS attacks this year, which may be due to many bot owners reallocating the computing power of their bots to a more profitable and relatively safe way of making money: cryptocurrency mining.

However, there is still a risk of DDoS attacks causing disruption, despite attackers not seeking financial gain.

The Kaspersky Lab DDoS Q3 report marked a continued trend in attacks aimed at educational organisations, as they open their doors after a long summer and students head back to school.

Attackers were most active during the third quarter in August and September, proven by the number of DDoS attacks on educational institutions increasing sharply at the start of the academic year.

This year, the most prominent attacks hit the websites of one of the UK’s leading universities – the University of Edinburgh – and the US vendor Infinite Campus, which supports the parent portal for numerous city public schools.

Analysis from Kaspersky Lab experts has found that the majority of these DDoS attacks were carried out during term time and subsided during the holidays.

More or less the same result was obtained by the British organisation Jisc.

After collecting data about a series of attacks on universities, it determined that the number of attacks fell when students were on holiday.

The number of attacks also decreases outside of study hours, with DDoS interference in university resources mainly occurring between 9am and 4pm.

Overall, between July and September, DDoS botnets attacked targets in 82 countries.

China was once again first in terms of the number of attacks.

The US returned to second after losing its place in the top three to Hong Kong in Q2.

However, third place has now been occupied by Australia – the first time it’s reached such heights since Kaspersky Lab DDoS reports began.

There have also been changes in the top 10 countries with the highest number of active botnet C&C servers.

As in the previous quarter, the US remained in first place, but Russia moved up to second, while Greece came third.

Kaspersky DDoS protection business development manager Alexey Kiselev says, “The top priority of any cybercriminal activity is gain.

“However, that gain doesn’t necessarily have to be financial. The example of DDoS attacks on universities, schools and testing centres presumably demonstrates attempts by young people to annoy teachers, institutions or other students, or maybe just to postpone a test.

“At the same time, these attacks are often carried out without the use of botnets, which are, as a rule, only available to professional cybercriminals, who now seem to be more concerned with mining and conducting only well-paid attacks.

“This sort of ‘initiative’ shown by students and pupils would be amusing if it didn’t cause real problems for the attacked organisations which, in turn, have to prepare to defend themselves against such attacks,” Kiselev says.

Source: https://datacentrenews.eu/story/universities-seeing-rise-in-ddos-attacks

Players affected as online game ‘Final Fantasy XIV’ hit by ‘unprecedented’ cyberattacks

Servers for Square Enix Co.’s popular online game “Final Fantasy XIV” has been hit by a series of cyberattacks since early October, preventing some users from accessing the service, its publisher said Thursday.

The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which multiple hacked computers are used to flood the target system, were carried out to an “unprecedented extent” against data centers in Japan, North America and Europe, Square Enix said.

The identities of the attackers are not yet known, although information security experts suspect links to cheap online services that carry out so-called DDoS attacks.

Two major attacks in early October and late October prevented game players from logging in to the service or cut off their connections for up to 20 hours, according to the company.

Square Enix has taken steps against the attacks but the servers were attacked again Tuesday night, disrupting the service for some 50 minutes.

“FFXIV” had previously been subjected to DDoS attacks. A study by a U.S. internet company has showed that some 80 percent of DDoS attacks worldwide are targeted at game services.

“The attacks may have been carried out by people who commit the offense for pleasure, hold a grudge against the company or seek money,” said Nobuhiro Tsuji, an information security expert.

“The attacks have extended over a long period, and, while it is costly, there is no choice but to boost countermeasures,” the expert at SoftBank Technology Corp. said.

In 2014, a high school student in Kumamoto Prefecture was found to have used an online DDoS attack service to disrupt a different game company’s operations after he became frustrated with the way the game services were managed. He was referred to prosecutors the same year.

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/01/business/tech/players-affected-online-game-final-fantasy-xiv-hit-unprecedented-cyberattacks/#.W9yKTuIpCUk

30 years ago, the world’s first cyberattack set the stage for modern cybersecurity challenges

Back in November 1988, Robert Tappan Morris, son of the famous cryptographer Robert Morris Sr., was a 20-something graduate student at Cornell who wanted to know how big the internet was – that is, how many devices were connected to it. So he wrote a program that would travel from computer to computer and ask each machine to send a signal back to a control server, which would keep count.

The program worked well – too well, in fact. Morris had known that if it traveled too fast there might be problems, but the limits he built in weren’t enough to keep the program from clogging up large sections of the internet, both copying itself to new machines and sending those pings back. When he realized what was happening, even his messages warning system administrators about the problem couldn’t get through.

His program became the first of a particular type of cyber attack called “distributed denial of service,” in which large numbers of internet-connected devices, including computers, webcams and other smart gadgets, are told to send lots of traffic to one particular address, overloading it with so much activity that either the system shuts down or its network connections are completely blocked.

As the chair of the integrated Indiana University Cybersecurity Program, I can report that these kinds of attacks are increasingly frequent today. In many ways, Morris’s program, known to history as the “Morris worm,” set the stage for the crucial, and potentially devastating, vulnerabilities in what I and others have called the coming “Internet of Everything.”

Unpacking the Morris worm

Worms and viruses are similar, but different in one key way: A virus needs an external command, from a user or a hacker, to run its program. A worm, by contrast, hits the ground running all on its own. For example, even if you never open your email program, a worm that gets onto your computer might email a copy of itself to everyone in your address book.

In an era when few people were concerned about malicious software and nobody had protective software installed, the Morris worm spread quickly. It took 72 hours for researchers at Purdue and Berkeley to halt the worm. In that time, it infected tens of thousands of systems – about 10 percent of the computers then on the internet. Cleaning up the infection cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for each affected machine.

In the clamor of media attention about this first event of its kind, confusion was rampant. Some reporters even asked whether people could catch the computer infection. Sadly, many journalists as a whole haven’t gotten much more knowledgeable on the topic in the intervening decades.

Morris wasn’t trying to destroy the internet, but the worm’s widespread effects resulted in him being prosecuted under the then-new Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He was sentenced to three years of probation and a roughly US$10,000 fine. In the late 1990s, though, he became a dot-com millionaire – and is now a professor at MIT.

Rising threats

The internet remains subject to much more frequent – and more crippling – DDoS attacks. With more than 20 billion devices of all types, from refrigerators and cars to fitness trackers, connected to the internet, and millions more being connected weekly, the number of security flaws and vulnerabilities is exploding.

In October 2016, a DDoS attack using thousands of hijacked webcams – often used for security or baby monitors – shut down access to a number of important internet services along the eastern U.S. seaboard. That event was the culmination of a series of increasingly damaging attacks using a botnet, or a network of compromised devices, which was controlled by software called Mirai. Today’s internet is much larger, but not much more secure, than the internet of 1988.

Some things have actually gotten worse. Figuring out who is behind particular attacks is not as easy as waiting for that person to get worried and send out apology notes and warnings, as Morris did in 1988. In some cases – the ones big enough to merit full investigations – it’s possible to identify the culprits. A trio of college students was ultimately found to have created Mirai to gain advantages when playing the “Minecraft” computer game.

Fighting DDoS attacks

But technological tools are not enough, and neither are laws and regulations about online activity – including the law under which Morris was charged. The dozens of state and federal cybercrime statutes on the books have not yet seemed to reduce the overall number or severity of attacks, in part because of the global nature of the problem.

There are some efforts underway in Congress to allow attack victims in some cases to engage in active defense measures – a notion that comes with a number of downsides, including the risk of escalation – and to require better security for internet-connected devices. But passage is far from assured

There is cause for hope, though. In the wake of the Morris worm, Carnegie Mellon University established the world’s first Cyber Emergency Response Team, which has been replicated in the federal government and around the world. Some policymakers are talking about establishing a national cybersecurity safety board, to investigate digital weaknesses and issue recommendations, much as the National Transportation Safety Board does with airplane disasters.

More organizations are also taking preventative action, adopting best practices in cybersecurity as they build their systems, rather than waiting for a problem to happen and trying to clean up afterward. If more organizations considered cybersecurity as an important element of corporate social responsibility, they – and their staff, customers and business partners – would be safer.

In “3001: The Final Odyssey,” science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke envisioned a future where humanity sealed the worst of its weapons in a vault on the moon – which included room for the most malignant computer viruses ever created. Before the next iteration of the Morris worm or Mirai does untold damage to the modern information society, it is up to everyone – governments, companies and individuals alike – to set up rules and programs that support widespread cybersecurity, without waiting another 30 years.

Source:http://theconversation.com/30-years-ago-the-worlds-first-cyberattack-set-the-stage-for-modern-cybersecurity-challenges-105449

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