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This is how scammers are now abusing Google Calendar to pillage your data

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Spam email: Why do we still click on the link
As security gets tighter, the easiest way to get malware onto a PC is to trick the person at the keyboard.

Cyberattackers and scammers will try every trick in the book to lure you into parting with your information.

Data can be considered something of currency in itself; it can be sold on for profit in the underground, used to compromise online accounts, and in the worst cases, can be utilized for identity theft or making fraudulent purchases.

Software and web vulnerabilities are often exploited in attacks in order to collect data in bulk. Hardly a day goes by when you do not hear of yet another data breach with so-many-millions of records exposed.

On an individual level, the services we use on a daily basis are also of interest to scammers and attackers keen to get their hands on your information — and calendar systems are not exempt.

Calendar-based attacks and scams have been floating around the Internet for years, but it was only in 2016 when such schemes began to impact users in vast numbers. Apple device users began receiving notifications on their Calendar app, made possible through unprotected sharing mechanisms.

In one case noted by ZDNet, an advert for ‘Ray-Bans’ popped up and those that fell victim for the invite ended up having their credit card details stolen.

At the time, Apple rolled out a report function for spam notifications appearing in Calendar, Photos, and iMessage and later included a feature to turn off the automatic addition of events altogether. However, this patch-over only highlighted an ongoing problem impacting not just the iPhone and iPad maker, but Google and Microsoft too.

In the name of collaboration, invitations which appear on your calendar can be useful functions, especially for those in business and management. However, scam artists exploit what are usually valuable features for users.

See also: Remote attack flaw found in IPTV streaming service

Back in February, researchers from GreatHorn came across a Microsoft scam which used the spoofed name and email address of a chief executive at the company they were targeting.

Victims were sent a calendar invitation relating to a fake meeting organized by the ‘CEO,’ and those that clicked the link were taken to a phishing website designed to look like Microsoft Outlook for the purpose of stealing their account credentials.

Now, it appears scammers are targeting Google Calendar. Kaspersky researchers said on Monday that multiple cases of the latest invite scheme were detected throughout May, in which fraudsters sent unsolicited event invitations by abusing a “free online calendar service that adds invitations and events to users’ calendars automatically.”

The spam message blast exploited a smartphone-based feature for Gmail which automatically added and notified potential victims of the fraudulent calendar invitations.

These pop-up notifications were not as sophisticated as the aforementioned business scam which pretended to be legitimate communication from a CEO; rather, the invitations they connected to contained a phishing link which sent victims to a survey website offering money for questionnaire completion.

TechRepublic: Want less spam? Learn how to integrate Spamassassin with Postfix Mail Server

However, to receive their winnings, the victims would need to enter their credit card details alongside names, phone numbers, and addresses.

“The ‘calendar scam’ is a very effective scheme, as most people have become used to receiving spam messages from emails or messenger apps,” said Maria Vergelis, security researcher at Kaspersky. “So far, the sample we’ve seen contains text displaying an obviously weird offer, but as it happens, every simple scheme becomes more elaborate and trickier with time.”

CNET: Here are 6 MacOS Catalina security changes coming from Apple this fall

Calendar abuse isn’t going away anytime soon, but thankfully for Google Calendar users, there is an easy way to prevent these annoying — and often malicious — campaigns. Open up Google Calendar, click Settings, and uncheck the box next to “Events from Gmail / Add automatically.”

Previous and related coverage


Have a tip? Get in touch securely via WhatsApp | Signal at +447713 025 499, or over at Keybase: charlie0


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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security

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This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.

These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.

Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.

If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.

Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.

“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”

As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.

Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.

“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.

So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:

“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”

Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.

“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”

Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast

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