This article is a re-print from the April 1, 2015 edition of Silicon India.
Security threats are evolving quickly, making it difficult to pinpoint just one threat that is currently affecting small and mid-size businesses.
From the threats we have observed in the past and the ones we anticipate for the future, we have learned that while malware can be damaging to businesses, so can human decisions. This makes it vital for small and mid-size business owners to discuss possible threats with their employees and share basic IT guidelines with them, but more importantly, to implement a strong security solution that holds up dangers before they become a real threat.
Taking Advantage of Human Nature: Social Engineering
Hackers understand that it is human nature to make mistakes, which is why they often turn to social engineering. Social engineering is a tactic that tricks people into revealing their personal information, like log in details, or into performing actions, like downloading malware disguised as an attachment or link.
Phishing emails are a popular form of social engineering that can easily sneak their way into your employees’ inboxes, disguising themselves as yet another offer, promotion, or even customer, if you do not have anti-phishing protection. Phishing campaigns come in many forms; they can either use scare tactics to make people believe they are in trouble or that they have won a prize.
In the last few months we have seen Trojans like Pony Stealer and Tinba make their rounds. Both Pony Stealer and Tinba attempted to convince people they owed money and to download an invoice, which was of course not an actual invoice, but a Trojan.
Falling for phishing scams can have devastating effects on businesses; they could not only steal personal information, but also attack Point of Sale (PoS) systems to steal customers’ financial information, thus not only affecting the business itself, but its clients as well.
Lack of security awareness: Beneficial for hackers, bad for your business
Not taking proper security precautions, like choosing weak passwords or ignoring security updates, is another human flaw cybercriminals like to abuse to access accounts and networks. To gain control of a system, hackers can enter common or weak passwords or simply look up hardware’s default administrative log in credentials.
Malware authors like to play hide-and-seek. Hiding executable files inside PDFs and Microsoft Office documents then emailing them as attachments are nothing new, but sometimes one layer isn’t enough. This Avast Virus Lab analysis peels back the layers of a new threat.
Malware authors continually surprise us with their creativity. In an effort to trick banking customers into revealing the login credentials for their online account, cycbercrooks are using the trust people have in Microsoft Office to make them execute banking malware on their own computers. Here’s how it works:
Typically, spam emails contain executable files that can harm a victim’s computer and steal private information. In the layered version, they have PDFs or Microsoft Office documents attached that contain a malicious executable file. We recently found an email that had an added layer and decided to analyze the email.
The email, disguised as a financially-related message from a legitimate company, informed the recipient that an invoice was due and had a PDF file attached. Embedded inside the malicious PDF was a Microsoft Office document and simple java script that dropped and executed the DOC file.
Inside the DOC file we found malicious macro code, which users must activate, as the code is disabled by Microsoft Office by default. The code obfuscates DOC files by creating new documents with unique methods names, variable names, and URLs, making it difficult to detect the malicious files.
When we analyzed the malicious macro code, we found some hints that helped us with our analysis. In this sample it was a function called MICHEL.
We already knew this function would open the URL with the malicious file, and when we found this function in one of the modules, we were able to find the download path.
The address is stored as a GUADALUPE variable. The URL is unique for each sample and leads to the download of a malicious PE file.
The PE file would act as an information stealer, stealing login credentials from banking sites like
- Santander, whose principal market is in the Northeastern United States
- Ulster bank, based in Ireland
- From Google accounts
How to protect yourself from banking malware
Our number 1 recommendation is keep your security software updated. Avast streams hundreds of updates every day to your devices, so you will stay protected. For example, the executable file downloaded by the malicious Microsoft Office document belongs to a banker family evolved from infamous Zeus. This variant is also known as a Dridex Botnet. At the time of writing this post, the botnet is still active, but the malware itself is inactive. Avast detects it as Win32: Pierre-A.
Clever cybercrooks use social engineering to manipulate their victims. Use extreme caution when opening emails related to your finances until you can verify the legitimacy.
Samples related to this analysis:
Fake Flash Player updates fool Facebook users.
Facebook users have fallen victim to a recycled scam, and we want to make sure that all of our readers are fore-warned. Cybercrooks use social engineering tactics to fool people into clicking, and when the bait comes from a trusted friend on Facebook, it works very well.
Here’s how the scam works – your friend sends you an interesting video clip; in the latest iteration you are tagged and lots of other friends are also tagged – this makes it seem more trustworthy. The video stops a few seconds in and when you click on it, a message that your Flash Player needs to be updated for it to continue comes up. Since you have probably seen messages from Adobe to update your Flash Player, this does not raise any red flags. Being conscientious about updating your software, as well as curious about what happens next in the video, you click the link. That’s when the fun really begins.
The fake Flash Player is actually the downloader of a Trojan that infects your account. Security researcher Mohammad Faghani, told The Guardian, …” once it infects someone’s account, it re-shares the clip while tagging up to 20 of their friends – a tactic that helps it spread faster than previous Facebook-targeted malware that relied on one-to-one messaging on Facebook.”
How to protect yourself from Facebook video scams
Don’t fall for it. Videos that are supposedly sensational or shocking are also suspect. Be very cautious when clicking.
Does your friend really watch this stuff? If it seems out of character for your friend to share something like that with you, beware. Their account may have been infected by malware, and it’s possible they don’t even know this is being shared. Do them a favor and tell them about it.
Be careful of shortened links. The BBB says that scammers use link-shortening services to disguise malicious links. Don’t fall for it. If you don’t recognize the link destination, don’t click.
Use up-to-date antivirus software like Avast Free Antivirus with full real-time protection.
Report suspicious activity to Facebook. If your account was compromised, make sure to change your password.
In June 2014, we told you about mobile ransomware called Simplocker that actually encrypted files (before Simplocker, mobile ransomware only claimed to encrypt files to scare users into paying). Simplocker infected more than 20,000 unique users, locking Android devices and encrypting files located in the external storage. Then, it asked victims to pay a ransom in order to “free” the hijacked device. It was easy to decrypt the files affected by this variant of Simplocker, because the decryption key was hardcoded inside the malware and was not unique for each affected device.
Dangerous unique keys
But now there is a new, more sophisticated variant of Simplocker in town that has already infected more than 5,000 unique users within days of being discovered. The reason why this variant is more dangerous than its predecessor is that it generates unique keys for each infected device, making it harder to decrypt infected devices.
To use an analogy, the original variant of Simplocker used a “master key” to lock devices, which made it possible for us to provide a “copy of the master key” (in the form of an app, Avast Ransomware Removal) to unlock already infected devices. The new variant however, locks each device with a “different key” which makes it impossible to provide a solution that can unlock each infected device, because that would require us to “make copies” of all the different “keys”.
Why would anybody install Simplocker?!
The reason why people install this new variant of Simplocker is because it goes undercover, meaning people don’t even realize that what they are installing is ransomware!
In this case, the new variant of Simplocker uses the alias “Flash Player” and hides in malicious ads that are hosted on shady sites. These ads mostly “alert” users that they need Flash Player installed in order to watch videos. When the ad is clicked on, the malicious app gets downloaded, notifying the user to install the alleged Flash Player app. Android, by default, blocks apps from unofficial markets from being installed, which is why users are notified that the install is being blocked for security reasons.
Users should listen to Android’s advice. However, users can go into their settings to deactivate the block and download apps from unknown sources. Once installed, a “Flash Player” app icon appears on the device and when it is opened the “Flash Player” requests the user grant it administrator rights, which is when the trouble really begins.
As soon as the app is granted administrator rights, the malware uses social engineering to deceive the user into paying ransom to unlock the device and decrypt the files it encrypted. The app claims to be the FBI, warning the user that they have found suspicious files, violating copyright laws demanding the user pay a $200 fine to decrypt their files.
What should I do if I have been infected?
We do NOT recommend you pay the ransom. Giving into these tactics makes malware authors believe they are succeeding and encourages them to continue.
If you have been infected by this new strain of Simplocker, back up the encrypted files by connecting your smartphone to your computer. This will not harm your computer, but you may have to wait until a solution to decrypt these files has been found. Then boot your phone into safe mode, go into the administrator settings and remove the malicious app and uninstall the app from the application manager.
Avast protects users against Simplocker
Avast Mobile Security protects users against both the old and new variant of Simplocker, the new variant is detected as: Android:Simplocker-AA.
A more technical look under the hood:
As the fake FBI warning is being shown to users, the malware continues working in the background, doing the following: Read more…
[AUDIO VERSION: This is an audio version of this blog post. Click below to listen.]
During the Christmas holidays, my mother received this email from a well-meaning friend. Since her daughter works for the most trusted security company in the world, she immediately asked me about the authenticity of the message.
Here’s the email:
Subject: VIRUS COMING !
PLEASE FORWARD THIS WARNING AMONG FRIENDS, FAMILY AND CONTACTS!
You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message
with an attachment entitled POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK , regardless of who sent it to you.
It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which ‘burns’ the whole
hard disc C of your computer.
This virus will be received from someone who has your e -mail address
in his/her contact list.
This is the reason you need to send this e -mail to all your contacts.
It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus
and open it.
If you receive an email entitled “POSTCARD,” even though it was sent to
you by a friend, do not open it! Shut down your computer immediately.
This is the worst virus announced by CNN.
It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever.
This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair
yet for this kind of Virus.
This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the
vital information is kept.
COPY THIS E-MAIL AND SEND IT TO YOUR FRIENDS.
REMEMBER: IF YOU SEND IT TO THEM, YOU WILL BENEFIT ALL OF US
This particular email has been around for years, and you have probably seen one of its incarnations. Although there are real incidents of malware being distributed via e-cards, this is a bogus, unsubstantiated hoax.
The language is quite strong – phrases like the worst virus and the most destructive virus ever are sure to get the attention of security-minded people. The problem is that the email fails to provide any authentic details to learn more about the threat, just vague announcements and classifications.
“The email doesn’t actually mention a specific virus,” said Jan Zika, an Avast Virus Lab analyst. “Sure some viruses use the “Postcard” social engineering method to trick users to click the link, but this email has been circulating for a couple of years now, and it never says which virus it is.”
The email does say what the virus can do, This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept, and it burns the whole hard disc C of your computer. Pretty scary stuff!
“No, it cannot burn anything, and no, it is not most destructive virus ever,” said Zika. His advice? “It’s best to avoid such messages unless you can confirm that the threat is real.”
Protect yourself against email hoaxes
- Keep you antivirus protection up-to-date and scan regularly for viruses and malware. Both Avast Internet Security and Avast Premier include anti-spam filters to keep your inbox free of this kind of nonsense.
- Use caution when opening attachments or downloading files. Double check that it’s from a sender you know and trust.
- Before clicking on any links or attachments, try to verify that the email came from a legitimate source. If you can’t, then don’t click.
Today’s biggest threat to the normal consumer is the consumer themselves.
This bold statement was made by Avast CEO Vincent Steckler in an interview with German technology website Valuetech in Munich last week. That’s a daring position to take after this year’s revelations about NSA spying, the theft of tens of millions of customer passwords from major retailers like Target and Home Depot, the recent Sony Pictures hack, and the normal parade of Trojan horses, worms and viruses, but it’s one that Steckler stands behind.
Watch the interview here (04:00),
Mr. Steckler has good reason for his conclusion. Here’s a few of the main points he made during the interview.
Social engineering preys on human weakness
“A lot of attacks are still using social engineering techniques; phishing emails – ways of convincing the user to give up valuable information,” said Steckler.
An example of phishing emails just occurred after Black Friday, when cybercrooks sent millions of fake purchase confirmation emails to customers of major retailers. You can read about that, as well as what to do if you are a victim, in our blog, Fake confirmation emails from Walmart, Home Depot, others in circulation.
The Mac misconception
Mac users are well-known for proudly touting that they don’t use antivirus protection because they never have a problem with viruses. But, it’s really a numbers game.
“There is no fundamental difference,” Steckler says of the security of PCs and Macs. “Mac is not inherently any safer, as a technology, than Windows is. What makes a difference there is what is more opportune for a bad guy to attack.”
He explains that malware written for Windows can attack up to 93% of the world’s PCs. Mac malware only reaches 7-8% of the world’s PCs. The safety then lies in the lower numbers of Mac devices rather than a technical safety advantage.
Households networks are as complicated as small business networks
With the interconnectivity of household devices from household computers, mobile phones, TVs and even refrigerators, Steckler compares the typical household network to that of a small business.
“The central weakness in this ‘Internet of Things’ will be that home router – the thing that connects everything together,” says Steckler, “and basically doesn’t have any security on it.”
Avast 2015 seeks to address this lack in security by including the new Home Network Security scanner.
Yesterday on our blog, avast! Virus Lab researcher Jaromir Horejsi, explained a banking Trojan called Tinba. Also this week, we told you about an email that Avast evangelist, Bob G. received claiming that he won money in a World Cup lottery. The cybercrooks behind that scam cast a wide net, hoping to catch a few people then ask them to provide banking information so they could deliver the prize.
The cybercrooks behind Tinba and Bob’s lottery email use a social engineering technique called spearfishing to target its victims. Spearphishing is similar to the classic technique called phishing which uses authentic-looking emails to lure the victims to fake websites, then trick them into revealing personal information.
Cybercrooks use emotional hooks to lure you in
Other high profile phishing attempts, like the DHL email scam that ran last Christmas, preyed on the anxiety of the holidays. An email that looks like the real thing from DHL was sent, offering all sorts of urgent and legitimate-sounding explanations as to why they need your personal data. It’s not hard to understand why busy people can be fooled.
Spearphishing is similar in every way to phishing except that the net is drawn in much tighter. The FBI says that cybercrooks target select groups of people with something in common—they work at the same company, bank at the same financial institution, attend the same college, order merchandise from the same website, etc. The emails are seemingly sent from organizations or individuals the potential victims would normally get emails from, making them even more deceptive. This is what is happening with the Tinba Trojan right now in Czech Republic.
In both social engineering schemes, once the victim clicks, they are led to a phony but realistic-looking website, where they are asked to provide passwords, account numbers, user IDs, access codes, PINs, etc.
How to avoid becoming a spear phishing victim
- Most companies, banks, agencies, etc., don’t request personal information via e-mail. If in doubt, give them a call (but don’t use the phone number contained in the e-mail—that’s usually phony as well).
- Use a phishing filter. Both avast! Internet Security and avast! Premier include anti-spam filters to detect phishing and scam emails.
- Never follow a link to a secure site from an email; always enter the URL manually.
Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.
Tinba Trojan specifically targets bank customers with deceitful debt notice.
The Tinba Trojan is banking malware that uses a social engineering technique called spearfishing to target its victims. Recently, targets have been banking customers in Czech Republic, AVAST Software’s home country. Tinba, aka Tiny Banker or Tinybanker, was first reported in 2012 where it was active in Turkey. A whitepaper analyzing its functionality is available here (PDF). However, the spam campaigns against bank users in Czech Republic are still going on and have became more intensive. Here is an example of what Czech customers recently found in their email inbox.
VÝZVA K ÚHRADĚ DLUŽNÉHO PLNĚNÍ PŘED PROVEDENÍM EXEKUCE
Soudní exekutor Mgr. Bednář, Richard, Exekutorský úřad Praha-2, IČ 51736937, se sídlem Kateřinská 13, 184 00 Praha 2
pověřený provedením exekuce: č.j. 10 EXE 197/2014 -17, na základě exekučního titulu: Příkaz č.j. 077209/2014-567/Čen/G V.vyř.,
vás ve smyslu §46 odst. 6 z. č. 120/2001 Sb. (exekuční řád) v platném znění vyzývá k splnění označených povinností, které ukládá exekuční titul, jakož i povinnosti uhradit náklady na nařízení exekuce a odměnu soudního exekutora, stejně ták, jako zálohu na náklady exekuce a odměnu soudního exekutora:
Peněžitý nárok oprávněného včetně nákladu k dnešnímu dni: 9 027,00 Kč
Záloha na odměnu exekutora (peněžité plnění): 1 167,00 Kč včetně DPH 21%
Náklady exekuce paušálem: 4 616,00 Kč včetně DPH 21%
Pro splnění veškerých povinností je třeba uhradit na účet soudního exekutora (č.ú. 549410655/5000, variabilní symbol 82797754, ČSOB a.s.), ve lhůtě 15 dnů od
doručení této výzvy 14 810,00 Kč
Nebude-li uvedená částka uhrazena ve lhůtě 15 dnů od doručení této výzvy, bude i provedena exekuce majetku a/nebo zablokován bankovní účet povinného ve smyslu § 44a odst. 1 EŘ a podle § 47 odst. 4 EŘ. Až do okamžiku splnění povinnosti.
Příkaz k úhradě, vyrozumění o zahájení exekuce a vypučet povinnosti najdete v přiložených souborech.
Za správnost vyhotovení Alexey Mishkel
Bailiff [Academic title] [First name] [Last name], Distraint office Prague-2 ID: 51736937 at Katerinska 13, 184 00 Prague 2 was authorized to proceed the execution 10 EXE 197/2014 -17 based on execution Order 077209/2014-567/Cen/G according to §46 paragraph 4, 120/2001 law collection in valid form which impose you to pay these costs:
Debt amount: 9,027.00 CZK ($445.00)
Distraint reward: 1,167 including 21% TAX
Fixed costs: 4,616 CZK including 21% TAX
Total: 14,810 CZK ($730.00)
To bank account 549410655/5000, variable symbol 82797754, CSOB a.s.
For the correctness of the copy warrants Alexey Mishkel
Using the spearfishing social engineering tactic, the attackers attempt to scare their victims with a specially designed email message explaining that a debt exists which needs to be paid.
Famous people – movie stars, athletes, politicians - are the favorite subject matter of scammers. Using modern technologies and communications channels, scammers and social engineers come up with sophisticated methods to trick people and grab their attention. Social channels offer a perfect environment to create buzz, grab users’ interest with shocking content, and eventually make people share the scams themselves! Behind different types of scams stands different motivations; collecting likes (likes farms), spreading malware, or installing malicious applications that will steal your credentials. Whatever those motivations, the intentions of scammers ain’t for your benefit!
We monitor social media to pick up those dangerous scams, warn our community, and report it to our virus lab. There are plenty of users who still become victims of scammers. We are convinced that it is more efficient to avoid problems, than to fix them.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ~ Benjamin Franklin
Let’s take a look at a few types of scams and patterns that will help us to recognize them ahead. STOP – THINK – AND DON’T CLICK (YET)
Celebrities are in the constant spotlight, followed not only by the paparazzi and tabloid magazines, but fans as well, observing every step they take. The more unusual and shocking the story is, the better it sells online. Is there any better way to attract humans’ attention than with sex? If you know of some, please let us know! Meanwhile, let’s learn how those scams work and mainly - how to recognize them!
- Rouge visuals, shocking copy, and very strong call to actions. If the status contains any of following: OMG, You must watch it, Look what she/he has done! NEVER click on this link!
- Message leads to a shortened URL, so you can not recognize the link that doesn’t lead to any well- known source (celebrity fan pages or blogs, entertainment websites)
- The hosting server is unknown source
Would you click on the video saying “OMG I can’t believe Rihanna did it with a…” Read more…
Yes! What a lucky day! I’ve just got a message that I won 2,000,000.00 British Pounds (2.4M EUR/3.1M USD), an Apple laptop, a T-shirt, and a cap emblazoned with a logo of The Free Lotto Company. Pretty awesome you might think, but appearances are deceptive. Unfortunately, this is just one of the ways bad guys try to get some of our money.
Well, I was thinking, it‘s worth a shot. So I decided to write to the email address and see what would happen. Actually, the hardest part was a making up a fake name for myself! You would never believe how rough this might be. In the end, I decided to call myself Robert Konmed.
Here’s how the conversation went down.
Me: Hello, I’ve got a winning message with information to contact your email address. How can I pick up my prize please? Thank you, Robert Konmed
Bad guys: Please find attached document for info to contact courier delivery company: EMAIL:email@example.com Regards Brian Calton
Me: Hello guys, I’m really excited about a winning prize. But would be possible to tell me how much I should prepare for a delivery company? And also I’m curious if there is possibility to charge delivery from my winning prize? Thank you & have a nice day! Best regards! Robert Konmed Read more…