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DDoS threats rise

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F5 Labs has released new figures highlighting how distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks continue to grow and evolve in EMEA.

According to customer data from F5’s Poland-based Security Operations Center (SOC), 2017 saw a 64% rise in mitigated incidents. EMEA is also firmly in the firing line, accounting for over 51% of reported global DDoS attacks.

Reflecting the spike in activity, F5 reported a 100% growth for EMEA customers deploying Web Application Firewall (WAF) technology in the past year. Meanwhile, anti-fraud solutions adoption increased by 76% and DDoS by 58%.

A key discovery was the relative drop in power for single attacks. Last year, the SOC logged multiple attacks of over 100 Gbps, with some surpassing 400 Gbps.

In 2017, the top attack stood at 62 Gbps. This suggests a move towards more sophisticated Layer 7 DDoS attacks that are potentially more effective and have lower bandwidth requirements. 66% of reported DDoS attacks were multi-vector and required sophisticated mitigation tools and knowledge.

“DDoS threats are on the rise in EMEA compared to the rest of the world, and we’re seeing notable changes in their scope and sophistication compared to 2016,” said Martin Walshaw, senior network engineer at F5.

“Businesses need to be aware of the shift and ensure, as a matter of priority, that the right solutions are in place to halt DDoS attacks before they reach applications and adversely impact on business operations. EMEA is clearly a hotspot for attacks on a global scale, so there is minimal scope for the region’s decision-makers to take their eyes off the ball.”

Four seasons of threat intelligence

Q1 2017 started with a bang, with F5 customers facing the widest range of disruptive attacks recorded to date. User Diagram Protocol (UDP) floods stood out, representing 25% of all attacks. Attackers typically send large UDP packets to a single destination or random ports, disguising themselves as trustworthy entities before stealing sensitive data. The next most common attacks were DNS Reflection (18%) and SYN Flood attacks (16%).

Q1 was also the peak for Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) attacks, whereby cybercriminals overwhelm businesses with rapid “echo request” (ping) packets without waiting for replies. In stark contrast, Q1 2016 attacks were a 50/50 split between UDP and Simple Service Discover Protocol (SSDP) floods.

Q2 proved equally challenging, with SYN floods moving to the front of the attack pack (25%), followed by Network Time Protocol and UDP floods (both 20%).

The attackers’ momentum continued into Q3, with UDP floods leading the way (26%). NTP floods were also prevalent (rising from 8% during the same period in 2016, to 22%), followed by DNS reflection (17%).

2017 wound down with more UDP flood dominance (25% of all attacks). It was also the busiest period for DNS reflection, which accounted for 20% of all attacks (compared to 8% in 2017 during the same period).

Another key discovery during Q4 – and one that vividly underlines cybercriminals capacity for agile reinvention – was how the Ramnit Trojan dramatically extended its reach. Initially built to hit banks, F5 Labs found that 64% of its targets during the holiday season were US based e-commerce sites. Other new targets included sites related to travel, entertainment, food, dating and pornography. Other observed banking Trojans extending their reach include Trickbot, which infects its victims with social engineering attacks, such as phishing or malvertising, to trick unassuming users into clicking malware links or downloading malware files.

“Attack vectors and tactics will only continue to evolve in EMEA,” said Walshaw.

“It is vital that businesses have the right solutions and services in place to safeguard apps wherever they reside. 2017 showed that more internet traffic is SSL/TLS encrypted, so it is imperative that DDoS mitigation solutions can examine the nature of these increasingly sophisticated attacks. Full visibility and greater control at every layer are essential for businesses to stay relevant and credible to customers. This will be particularly important in 2018 as the EU General Data Protection Regulations come into play.”

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Cons exploit Telegram ICO

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Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.

In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.

Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.

The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.

Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.

“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:

  • Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
  • Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
  • Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.
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Crouching Yeti strikes

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Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.

According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.

Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.

Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.

In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.

Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.

“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.

“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.

Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.

More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.

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