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A dozen US web servers are spreading 10 malware families, Necurs link suspected

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Leading data security firm leaves own server unsecured
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Researchers have uncovered over a dozen servers, unusually registered in the United States, which are hosting ten different malware families spread through phishing campaigns potentially tied to the Necurs botnet.

On Thursday, researchers from Bromium said they have monitored scams connected to this infrastructure during the May 2018 to March 2019 time period.

Five families of banking Trojans — Dridex, Gootkit, IcedID, Nymaim, and Trickbot — two ransomware variants, Gandcrab and Hermes, as well as three information stealers, Fareit, Neutrino, and Azorult, were all found on the servers.

It is unusual for such malware to be found on infrastructure hosted in the US, given the country’s law enforcement agencies are generally quick off the mark to seize and take down malicious infrastructure when informed of its existence.

One of the servers belongs to a single autonomous system and is a so-called “bulletproof” hosting service, which generally turns a blind eye to the subject material hosted, whether or not it is malicious or illegal. Another 11 servers involved belong to a company which is based in Nevada and sells virtual private server (VPS) hosting.

“One possible reason for choosing a US hosting provider is so that the HTTP connections to download the malware from the web servers are more likely to succeed inside organizations that block traffic to and from countries that fall outside of their typical profile of network traffic,” Bromium suggests.

The cybersecurity researchers say that the malware families hosted on the servers have been distributed in multiple, mass phishing campaigns. Email and hosting infrastructure has been separated from command-and-control (C2) systems, which further suggests the servers are being used by “distinct” threat groups — some of which are responsible for email and hosting, while others are responsible for managing malware.

After tracing the spam and phishing campaigns tied to the malicious infrastructure, Bromium says that email is the main attack vector of all attacks detected. Microsoft Word files containing malicious VBA macros are the weaponized document of choice.

The phishing campaigns also appear to be US-centric, with lure emails written in English and masquerading as well-known US organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

See also: Home DNA kit company asks you to upload your family tree for the FBI

The most popular phishing lure was a job application, followed by an unpaid invoice demand.

Another interesting element of the infrastructure is the rapid compilation of malware samples and how quickly they were hosted. In some cases, such as with samples of Hermes and Dridex, compilation and hosting would take only a few hours and no longer than 24 hours.

“The quick turnaround from compilation to hosting suggests an organized relationship between malware developers and the operators of the distribution infrastructure,” the researchers say.

The cyberattackers were also observed hosting multiple malware families designed to work in tandem with each other. Phishing campaigns spotted in July and August 2018 were connected to this behavior, in which Azorult — an information stealer — was paired with the Hermes ransomware.

Servers are also being reused for different campaigns. On March 9, for example, a server was being used to distribute the IcedID banking Trojan. A week later, the same server was being used to host Dridex. In another case, Bromium observed a single web server being used to host no less than six different malware families over 40 days.

TechRepublic: What is the Dark Web, and why is it so bad if your information is there?

Bromium says that there are indicators present which suggest the servers may be tied to campaigns related to the Necurs botnet.

One of the servers was used to host a recent sample of Dridex in March this year. In addition, all of the malware hosted on the US infrastructure has been used for high-volume spam campaigns conducted by means which are consistent with the tactics used by the Necurs botnet operators.

Unlike the other campaigns, the web server used for Dridex had basic HTTP authentication in place, potentially to thwart researchers in their discovery of the malware’s presence on the server.

CNET: Kaspersky Lab will warn you if your phone is infected with stalkerware

“The username and password pair in that campaign was ‘username’ and ‘password’, and the name of the delivered file was ‘test1.exe’, suggesting that this may have been a trial campaign,” Bromium says. “Given the relative lull of Dridex activity for several months, this may be an indication of preparation for larger Dridex campaigns to come, or the adoption of HTTP basic authentication in other campaigns.” 

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Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications

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Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.

Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection

“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”

In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.

A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.

Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.

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When Is a DevSecOps Vendor Not a DevSecOps Vendor?

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DevOps’ general aim is to enable a more efficient process for producing software and technology solutions and bringing stakeholders together to speed up delivery. But we know from experience that this inherently creative, outcome-driven approach often forgets about one thing until too late in the process—security. Too often, security is brought into the timeline just before deployment, risking last minute headaches and major delays. The security team is pushed into being the Greek chorus of the process, “ruining everyone’s fun” by demanding changes and slowing things down.

But as we know, in the complex, multi-cloud and containerized environment we find ourselves in, security is becoming more important and challenging than ever. And the costs of security failure are not only measured in slower deployment, but in compliance breaches and reputational damage.

The term “DevSecOps” has been coined to characterize how security needs to be at the heart of the DevOps process. This is in part principle and part tools. As a principle, DevSecOps fits with the concept of “shifting left,” that is, ensuring that security is treated as early as possible in the development process. So far, so simple.

From a tooling perspective, however, things get more complicated, not least because the market has seen a number of platforms marketing themselves as DevSecOps. As we have been writing our Key Criteria report on the subject, we have learned that not all DevSecOps vendors are necessarily DevSecOps vendors. Specifically, we have learned to distinguish capabilities that directly enable the goals of DevSecOps from a process perspective, from those designed to support DevSecOps practices. We could define them as: “Those that do, and those that help.”

This is how to tell the two types of vendor apart and how to use them.

Vendors Enabling DevSecOps: “Tools That Do”

A number of tools work to facilitate the DevSecOps process -– let’s bite the bullet and call them DevSecOps tools. They help teams set out each stage of software development, bringing siloed teams together behind a unified vision that allows fast, high-quality development, with security considerations at its core. DevSecOps tools work across the development process, for example:

  • Create: Help to set and implement policy
  • Develop: Apply guidance to the process and aid its implementation
  • Test: Facilitate and guide security testing procedures
  • Deploy: Provide reports to assure confidence to deploy the application

The key element that sets these tool sets apart is the ability to automate and reduce friction within the development process. They will prompt action, stop a team from moving from one stage to another if the process has not adequately addressed security concerns, and guide the roadmap for the development from start to finish.

Supporting DevSecOps: “Tools That Help”

In this category we place those tools which aid the execution, and monitoring, of good DevSecOps principles. Security scanning and application/infrastructure hardening tools are a key element of these processes: Software composition analysis (SCA) forms a part of the development stage, static/dynamic application security testing (SAST/DAST) is integral to the test stage and runtime app protection (RASP) is a key to the Deploy stage.

Tools like this are a vital part of the security layer of security tooling, especially just before deployment – and they often come with APIs so they can be plugged into the CI/CD process. However, while these capabilities are very important to DevSecOps, they can be seen in more of a supporting role, rather than being DevSecOps tools per se.

DevSecOps-washing is not a good idea for the enterprise

While one might argue that security should never have been shifted right, DevSecOps exists to ensure that security best practices take place across the development lifecycle. A corollary exists to the idea of “tools that help,” namely that organizations implementing these tools are not “doing DevSecOps,” any more than vendors providing these tools are DevSecOps vendors.

The only way to “do” DevSecOps is to fully embrace security at a process management and governance level: This means assessing risk, defining policy, setting review gates, and disallowing progress for insecure deliverables. Organizations that embrace DevSecOps can get help from what we are calling DevSecOps tools, as well as from scanning and hardening tools that help support its goals.

At the end of the day, all security and governance boils down to risk: If you buy a scanning tool so you can check a box that says “DevSecOps,” you are potentially adding to your risk posture, rather than mitigating it. So, get your DevSecOps strategy fixed first, then consider how you can add automation, visibility, and control using “tools that do,” as well as benefit from “tools that help.”

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High Performance Application Security Testing

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research. It is hosted by an expert in Application and API testing, and GigaOm analyst, Jake Dolezal. His presentation will focus on the results of high performance testing we completed against two security mechanisms: ModSecurity on NGINX and NGINX App Protect. Additionally, we tested the AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) as a fully managed security offering.

While performance is important, it is only one criterion for a Web Application Firewall selection. The results of the report are revealing about these platforms. The methodology will be shown with clarity and transparency on how you might replicate these tests to mimic your own workloads and requirements.

Register now to join GigaOm and sponsor NGINX for this free expert webinar.

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