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Wannacry inspires wave of fraud

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A recent report has revealed that due to the mass WannaCry infection, fraudster have been sending spam mails offering users different services to fight against the epidemic.

In Q2 2017, cybercriminals involved in spam distribution tried to capitalise on public fears when the WannaCry ransomware epidemic struck in May. Knowing that there are lots of people out there infected with this ransomware, and searching for ways to get their encrypted data back, fraudsters sent out spam and phishing emails, offering users different services to fight against the epidemics. This is one of the key findings of Kaspersky Lab’s “Spam and phishing in Q2 2017” report.

The WannaCry ransomware attack affected more than 200,000 computers across the globe, resulting in massive panic, and spammers instantly capitalised on the opportunity. Researchers detected a large amount of messages offering services such as protection from WannaCry attacks, data recovery, and, moreover, educational workshops and courses for users. In addition, spammers successfully implemented a traditional scheme of fraudulent offers to install software updates on affected computers. However, links were redirecting users to phishing pages, where the personal data of victims would have been stolen.

One of the main trends in the past three months is the number of mass mailings targeted at corporate networks. Based on Kaspersky Lab research, these have expanded since the beginning of the year. Spammers began to widely disguise malicious mailings as corporate dialogues, by using the identities of corporate mail services, including real signatures, logos and even banking information. In archives attached to the email, cybercriminals sent out exploit packages targeted at stealing FTP, email and other passwords. Kaspersky Lab experts highlight that most attacks on the corporate sector have financial goals.

In addition, in the second quarter of the year researchers detected a growth in number of mass mailings with malicious Trojans, sent on behalf of international delivery services. Spammers were sending shipping reports with information about non-existent parcel deliveries. With the aim to infect computers or to steal personal credentials, criminals were found spreading download links with malware, including the banking Trojan Emotet, which was first detected back in 2014. Overall, the volume of malicious mass mailings have increased by 17%, according to the new Kaspersky Lab report.

“During the second quarter of the year, we have seen that the main trends in spam and phishing attacks have continued to grow. The use of WannaCry in mass mailings proves that cybercriminals are very attentive and reactive to international events. Moreover, cybercriminals have started to focus more on the B2B sector, seeing it as lucrative. We expect this tendency will continue to grow, and the overall amount of corporate attacks and their variety will expand”, said Darya Gudkova, Spam Analyst Expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Other important trends and statistics in Q2, highlighted by Kaspersky Lab researchers, include the following:

  • The average amount of spam has increased up to 56.97%. Vietnam became the most popular source of spam, overtaking the U.S. and China. The top 10 countries include Russia, Brazil, France, Iran and the Netherlands.
  • The Necurs botnet is still active. However, the experts spotted a decrease in the volume of spam sent from this botnet, and its instability.
  • The country most targeted by malicious mailshots was Germany. The leader of the previous period, China, came second, followed by U.K., Japan and Russia. Other popular targets include Brazil, Italy, Vietnam, France and the U.S.
  • The Kaspersky Lab Anti-Phishing system was triggered 46,557,343 times on the computers of Kaspersky Lab users. The largest percentage of affected users were in Brazil (18.09%). Overall, 8.26% unique users of Kaspersky Lab products worldwide were attacked by phishing.
  • As in Q1, the main targets of phishing attacks remained the same and were primarily from the financial sector: banks, payments services and online stores.

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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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R5m in software fines

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South African companies paid almost R5.2 million in damages for using unlicensed software in 2017 up from R3.6 million in 2016.

This is according to data from BSA | The Software Alliance, a non-profit, global trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.

The significant increase in unlicensed software payments – which includes settlements as well as the cost of acquiring new software to become compliant – is the result of more accurate leads from informers, says Darren Olivier, Partner at Adams & Adams, legal counsel for BSA. In 2017 BSA received 281 reports in South Africa alleging the use of unlicensed software products of BSA member companies – this up considerably up from 230 leads in 2016.

“BSA’s recent social media campaign also helped to create awareness among local companies about the need to comply with existing legislation in order to avoid legal action,” Olivier says.

The result has been a 13% increase in settlements paid in 2017, with the settlements total reaching almost R2.5 million.

While the average settlement paid by companies in 2017 was around R36 094, in some cases the amount owed was far greater, as is evidenced by Shereno Printers, a print and design company based in Gauteng, which ended up paying a hefty settlement amount of R260 000 last year in an out of court settlement.

The company’s case was in line with a broader trend, which saw the print and design industry as a whole rank among the top sectors plagued by unlicensed software.

Aside from settlements, companies also paid more than R2.6 million in licenses purchased to legalise their unlicensed software.

And the ramifications of software piracy extend beyond financial implications. “It also results in potential job losses and loss in tax revenue. This is not to mention the financial and reputational damage brought about by security breaches and lost data,” comments Olivier.

As unlicensed software has not been updated with the latest security features, it leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, he explains.

This is a particular problem for companies operating in South Africa where economic crime has recently reached record levels, according to the Global Economic Crime Survey. Indeed, 77% of South African organisations have experienced some form of economic crime. What’s more, instances of cybercrime totalled 29% of economic crimes reported.

This in turn, raises questions around government policy and the adequacy of existing copyright legislation, which only enables the registration of copyright in films, but not in computer programs.

Olivier notes that it is likely the percentage of unlicensed software on South African computers has increased over the past year. “We received many more leads this year, which is an indicator that the amount of pirated software is greater than in previous years,” he comments.

Often unlicensed software is not so much a case of deliberate piracy as it is a result of poor software asset management (SAM).

“For this reason, the BSA encourages all businesses to ensure they have effective SAM practices in place. Companies should be able to confirm what software they are using and are licensed to use – this will help them to identify unlicensed software and can also bring about cost savings. Even the most basic SAM practices such as regular inventories and software use policies can help,” says Chair of the BSA SA Committee, Billa Coetsee.

With this in mind the BSA offers a range of SAM solutions, not only to help organisations reduce legal and security risks, but also to create business value.

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