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Ransomware

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Organizational Security Starts with the Network

By | Network Access Control, Network Security, Ransomware, Threat Detection & Response | No Comments

Ransomware and malware, malicious cyber threats that demand ransom payments from the organization being attacked to retrieve stolen and encrypted data, have become the most prevalent cybersecurity threats. In the last few years, such attacks have increased in frequency and severity, and typically the large-scale cyber-attacks reach the headlines as seen in the 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya attacks that affected close to 300,000 computers globally.

Faced with the increasing threat of ransomware attacks, many organizations are now actively engaging in updating their cybersecurity defenses and authentication procedures to avoid the attention of cyber offenders. This can be a difficult process because many companies lack visibility of their network in terms of which points of connection are vulnerable to threats – such as Internet of Things (IoT) and personal devices (Bring-Your-Own device -BYOD). Therefore, Portnox recommends implementing a layered ransomware defense, response and remediation plan on the enterprise network. This plan would integrate full visibility of the network with all connected and managed/ unmanaged endpoints (including IoT and BYOD); control over access to files, resources and data, and remote remediation capabilities. Furthermore, the plan should include the possibility of quarantining or blocking infected devices to control lateral attacks.

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Ideally, an effective plan for defeating cyber extortion would include defense tools, such as anti-virus and anti-ransomware software that provide behavior-based detection, prevent access to files and file modifications, recover files, and vaccinate against the ransomware strain. All of these together create a comprehensive ransomware response and remediation solution. Portnox’s solution addresses all phases of the ransomware kill chain – reconnaissance, exploitation and remediation, and together with its technology partners and integrations, offers a holistic ransomware solution. Notwithstanding the ability to mine data from other sources, Portnox’s solution is known for its seamless deployment, even across the most complex networks and security architectures.

Phase 1 – Reconnaissance:
During this phase, the attacker collects information on the target through research of publicly available information or social engineering. At this phase Portnox’s solutions provide a real-time picture of all network elements, so that organizations can understand the level of risk and identify vulnerabilities early-on. Endpoints that are deemed to have a high risk value (fail to uphold the network security policies, are missing the latest antivirus and OS patches, or have certain technical specifications that have been deemed vulnerable), will be blocked from accessing the network or quarantined until security updates are made. Additionally, Portnox offers the ability to see into the weakest areas of the corporate network, i.e. Internet of Things (IoT) devices. CISOs, network administrators and IT teams can discover where IoT devices are located on the organizational network and detain them in a separate VLAN network with limited access.

Phase 2 – Delivery & Exploitation:
At this point hackers use the information attained in reconnaissance to carry out attacks on vulnerable endpoints, users and different areas of the network. Portnox software receives information from third-party security vendors to actively identify anomalies. There is full communication between Portnox and these vendors, so that their assessments are seamlessly integrated. The system can carry out on-going sandboxing of endpoints according to defined characteristics (including for IoT devices), and it can filter endpoints according to patch, anti-virus, operating system and active applications as well as quarantining them if one or more of these aspects has been deemed vulnerable. Portnox shares information when an endpoint’s posture assessment changes, helping network administrators identify attempts at social engineering in the early stages of a breach. The admin can then bring that device into compliance with security policies, or quarantine it until remedial security measures are taken.

Phase 3 – Command & Control Actions and Extraction:
At times, despite having all the right solutions in place, ransomware still gets through. Once this phase is reached, the ransomware is installed and the hacker can take full control of the organization’s system and do with it as he or she pleases. The hacker could freeze the organization’s data and demand ransom to give the access back (“Cryptolocker attacks”) as in some of the major ransomware attacks in the last few years. A new era of “CryptoWorms” is expected to surface as malware writers become more sophisticated and now, more than ever is time to have the right technologies in place to defend the organization’s assets, accessibility and private customer data.

Remediation:
Having a rapid remediation plan in place will not only help prevent further damage or the lateral spread of the attack; it will allow business continuity. Portnox uses the following:
• Automated Patch Updates Across the Network – Enforces necessary patch, anti-virus, operating system and application updates across managed and unmanaged endpoints, located both on and off premise.
• Immediate Incident Response – Contains ransomware events by remotely disconnecting endpoints from the network (no manual touch required). The program drills down to the level of specification: device type, operating system, anti-virus software version, switch location, and more. Finally, it performs automated actions on every device, in all locations, instantly.
• Armed Incident Response Teams – Portnox arms IT professionals and network admins with the ability to remotely take actions on employees’ devices. In addition, with Portnox’s solution, IT professionals can create an effective incident response plan for any device based on network specifications.

In conclusion, ransomware and malware are considered to be the top cyber-security threats of our time. Therefore, it is imperative to significantly increase organizational security so as to be prepared, with the right response and remediation software to such frequent and wide-reaching attacks. Portnox offers network access control solutions that allow organizations to maintain the upper hand in network security, allowing business continuity, securing company assets and avoiding prohibitive financial losses.

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Phishing And Ransomware – Your Inbox’s Worst Nightmare

By | news, Ransomware | No Comments

Phishing and Ransomware are two of the most common cyber attacks in the current internet landscape, yet center around the practice of digital blackmail. With a combination of the two, phishing ransomware attacks, are some of the most vicious threats. Nilly Assia, Portnox’s CMO, shares several rules of thumb that we should live by in the evolving landscape of digital threats. Published in ITProPortal.

Read the full article here.
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Ransomware and Internet of Things: Partners in Crime

By | Ransomware, Threat Detection & Response | No Comments

If you’ve been reading cybersecurity publications lately, you’re probably aware that ransomware  and Internet of Things (IoT) are now some of the biggest concerns within the cybersecurity community. Besides all of the relevant scenarios and security products that are presented to prepare for or attempt to prevent ransomware attacks or an IoT breach, there is one scenario that isn’t being talked about – ransomware attacks on IoT devices. This blog will attempt to shed some light on how these factors can work together to put your organization, and even human lives, at risk, as well as suggest ways that such an event can be prevented.

At the recent Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, two cybersecurity researchers, Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts demonstrated how the mechanical arm of an automated car washing machine could be hacked to cause damage to a vehicle, and potentially threaten human life. This is not the first time that Rios and Butts have put a connected device to the test; the team has successfully hacked a pacemaker and a smart car to highlight life-threatening vulnerabilities. They are probably not the only team that has made a point of demonstrating the dangers of IoT malware and ransomware, yet still, manufacturers, organizations and consumers continue to produce, purchase and deploy these inherently vulnerable devices. What makes IoT ransomware a grave security flaw?

Let’s start by stating that all connected devices (not just IoT devices) are potential victims of ransomware attacks because they are connected to the Internet. Ransomware attempts to gain access to mission-critical data on the network, then encrypting that data until the organization or individual pays the ransom (usually in a cryptocurrency), at which point they are provided the encryption key to recover the data. While ransomware is well understood when it comes to more “traditional” devices such as computers, phones, and servers, IoT devices are rarely considered as a point-of-entry, and if they are, there’s no way to patch, protect or install anti-virus software. Really, your best hope with an IoT device is that the manufacturer installed firmware and that there are available upgrades that somehow address ransomware risks. In the majority of cases, these firmware updates simply do not exist.

Then there’s the issue of visibility. When organizations and individuals connect IoT devices to their network, the excitement of deploying a new technology resulting in greater efficiency tends to overshadow precautionary measures to ensure the device is secure. There are a number cases in which organizations were attacked via IoT devices that they didn’t have knowledge of. In addition, many of these devices have default passwords that can be easily discovered through the Shodan search engine, Hydra or other IoT search tools and password generators. In most cases, the username is ‘admin’ and well, the password is the same. Oversight of IoT devices on the network greats a gaping hole for hackers to plant ransomware that, while not directly targeting the IoT device, can reach the mission-critical data they are after by gaining access to the network.

Finally, there is the physical aspect of IoT devices. Usually, these devices are deployed to control temperatures in the HVAC room, or as a smart coffee machine, smart TVs and in industry as part of the movement to connect machinery to the Internet (Industry 4.0). That means that unlike most computers and other “traditional” devices, IoT devices are tied to a physical function that could have real, and potentially dangerous consequences. The demonstration of the car wash hack is a good example, but what about IoT door locks that could trap people in a building or prevent entry, or a smart TV that allows for espionage. At the moment, the majority of these are hypothetical scenarios, but as the Mirai botnet incident demonstrated (what’s known as a pivoting attack), the hacking of IoT devices presents a real threat that should be addressed now, rather than later.

At the moment, IoT manufacturers aren’t doing much to make sure these devices are secure, so what should organizations eager to implement IoT devices do to make sure that they aren’t putting their network at risk?

The first thing that should be done is to find out if the IoT devices you’ve deployed have firmware, and if they do, if that firmware can be upgraded. But, as mentioned, not all IoT devices have firmware, which is why the next step should be to secure the IoT network with firewalls or create a network perimeter. With the devices quarantined in a “safe” part of the network, pivot attacks and access to mission-critical data on other devices are (largely) out of the question. Visibility is key for knowing where hidden threats lie on the network, which is why a solution that discovers IoT devices, their location and characteristics should be an essential part of any security stack. If possible, deploy a network access control solution that will allow for authentication of IoT devices to ensure that vulnerable devices can’t enter the network and gain access. Finally, and as previously mentioned, consistently update the default passwords and manage the security certificate lifecycle (if any).

While we haven’t heard of too many IoT ransomware attacks yet, you can bet that they will be in the news soon enough. Beat the black hats to the chase and shore up your network with IoT visibility, discovery and control tools that will protect against malicious exploits, including malware and ransomware.

Find out more about Portnox’s Rapid Ransomware Control & Response Solutions.

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How to Avoid the True Cost of Ransomware

By | Ransomware, Threat Detection & Response | No Comments

Recently, ransomware attacks on enterprise were all over the news. From the massive WannaCry attack in May 2017, which affected 300,000 devices worldwide (if not more), and the Petya (also known as NotPetya) attack in June 2017, it seems that there is no rest for the ransomware wicked. More than ever, businesses are aware that they need to have a ransomware game plan, and fast, because if not, they might find themselves in the headlines, having to take on the enormous costs of the attack aftershock, or worse – losing business due to system downtime and outages.

The wide-reaching effects of ransomware attacks on large corporations such as FedEx, Merck, HBO and Maersk are living examples of why it is important to avoid paying the true cost of ransomware remediation. The US pharmaceutical giant Merck was attacked by the Petya strain in June, yet still the organization is struggling to recover all its information and to account for the damages. The attack cost the organization billions in downtime, not to mention the significant funds required to staff around-the-clock IT experts, lawyers and PR reps to get business back on track. Global entertainment giant HBO was presented with a multi-million dollar ransomware demand this August, wasting billions in ad revenues for the company. These are just two examples that highlight the need for a review of remediation procedures, as well as ways to avoid paying the true cost of ransomware.

One of the easiest ways to avoid paying the true cost of dealing with a ransomware attack is simply not to pay the ransom. This may seem to go against organizational, or even your moral principles, but it has been established that paying the ransom seldom pays off. That’s because it’s unlikely that the hackers will release back all the information, upping the PR costs of dealing with potential media backlash, and, despite paying the ransom, showing a willingness to pay might brand your company as an easy target in the hacker community. But more than that, paying the ransom won’t prevent future attacks, because, in most cases, ransomware is distributed at random to any of the non-patched or vulnerable devices that particular strain is targeting. That’s why it’s a better idea to use the money that would go toward paying the ransom to shore up your cyber defenses, authentication tools and network firewalls.

Then there’s the issue of backups. Many organizations create a ransomware response plan that involves storing critical data on a secure server so that they can quickly bounce back from an attack. Yet while it is a good idea to back-up critical data, it’s possible that the back-up won’t recover all the information that’s in hackers’ hands. This presents threats to the stability and safety of your organization, and creates the possibility of a PR mishap (see the HBO example). In addition, the most recent ransomware attacks are targeting network-connected computers that have access to these back-ups, which means that attempts to fully restore systems are largely futile. So while back-ups are a good practice that should remain part of remediation plans, they shouldn’t be too heavily depended upon to get you back on your feet.

The bottom line: You need a multi-pronged approach to remediation.  If there’s one thing that can be said about ransomware, it’s that it doesn’t discriminate, which is why, more than ever, companies need to have the right remediation plan in place to avoid paying the true cost of ransomware attacks. A good place to start is integrating a solution that will allow IT professionals to remotely disconnect corporate devices from the network. This will help prevent the lateral spread of the attack throughout the organization, on both patched and unpatched devices (because the latest NotPetya strain targeted both). In addition, it’s important to have constant awareness of network areas at risk. This can be done by deploying a network access control solution that provides full visibility into devices, assess their level of digital risk to your business, and controls which devices are allowed on the network, and which aren’t.

To avoid paying the true cost of a ransomware attack, i.e. system and employee downtime, PR brand name damage as well as brand equity loss, and legal efforts and recovering data losses, your organization should consider a multi-faceted remediation approach that integrates a network authentication and endpoint control solution, allowing for business continuity with customers and partners.

Find out more about Portnox’s Rapid Ransomware Control & Response Solutions.

Patched or Unpatched? – That is the Question

Patched or Unpatched? – That Is the Question

By | Ransomware, Threat Detection & Response | No Comments

“Ransomware” may now officially be the most searched word on Google. That’s because this month, the alleged hacker group the Shadow Brokers executed yet another global ransomware attack, the ‘Petya’ attack, which manipulated many of the same vulnerabilities as the May WannaCry attack. In light of this new and worrisome wave of ransomware cyber crime, it’s time to discuss an unresolved for so many organizations – patched and unpatched devices.

A major network security pitfall in organizations of all sizes, but mainly large organizations, is that they lack visibility into which devices have been patched for the EternalBlue/EternalRomance vulnerabilities, and which devices are unpatched and are therefore prone to attacks. While Microsoft did what it could to issue the patches in time to prevent the spread of the attack, a number of devices remain unpatched, and in some cases, it is impossible for IT admins to tell if there are devices left to patch or not. There could be two reasons for this oversight: 1. The IT administrators lack appropriate network/endpoint visibility tools with compliance mechanisms such as automated patching or quarantining of rogue devices; or 2. There are unmanaged company devices accessing the network. In the case of the latter, it is impossible to tell if they have been patched or not, unless the admins make the effort of manually installing the patch updates themselves. While there is much to be said for the benefits of network visibility tools, it’s the unmanaged devices that really worry me.

Ransomware2

So how can we prevent a third massive ransomware attack? One could return to the vendor or Point of Sale of said unmanaged device and ask them to manually install the firmware, but this is a manual process and, with all of the ransomware attacks lately, these vendors are probably swamped with requests. The more logical option is to establish an active inventory of the unmanaged devices (such as BYODs) on the network so that, on the eve of an attack or, in light of suspicious activity, these devices can be automatically quarantined or blocked from the network. Another option is to perpetually place these devices in a segmented or firewalled part of the network that will limit their access to the Internet and sensitive company information. Here, it is possible to assign unmanaged devices to a guest or contractor network with limited access capabilities from the start.

Why is this so important, you ask? Because the perpetrators of the ‘Petya’ and WannaCry attacks were able to incur damage on a global scale by infiltrating vulnerabilities on one or two devices, then spreading the ransomware using freeware tools to thousands of others. It’s really the same way that worms work. This lateral movement throughout the organization can put IT admins in disaster mode – and that’s added to the fact that it takes 40% of IT teams at least two to three hours to realize they’ve been attacked!

In order to stop the ransomware bad guys in their tracks, it’s recommended to automate remediation methods to control the extent of the damage. Without this cushioning in place, hackers like the Shadow Brokers have free reign over not just one or two vulnerable devices, but the entire network, including personal devices and information attained in phishing attacks.

Let’s take the right actions this time to ensure that a third global ransomware attack doesn’t happen again anytime soon.