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This new cryptojacking malware uses a sneaky trick to remain hidden

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Is the end in sight for cryptojacking cyberattacks?
For some crooks, sneaky cryptocurrency mining may not be lucrative enough anymore. The question is, where do they go next?

A newly-discovered form of cryptocurrency-mining malware is capable of remaining so well-hidden that researchers investigating it found that it had spread to almost every computer at a company that had become infected.

Dubbed ‘Norman’ due to references in the backend of the malware, the cryptojacker has been detailed by cybersecurity researchers at Varonis.

The Monero-cryptomining campaign was uncovered after Varonis’ security platform spotted suspicious network alerts and abnormal file activity on systems within organisations that had reported unstable applications and network slowdown.

Cryptojacking malware exploits the processing power of an infected computer to mine for cryptocurrency – which can cause the system to slow down, even to the point of becoming unusable.

Researchers found that several variants of cryptomining malware had been installed on almost every server and workstation in companies that had fallen victim, and that some machines had even been infected with password stealers – likely used as a means of adding more machines to the mining botnet. It’s unknown how the initial infection took place, but in some cases, the malware had been present for years.

Of those variants, it was Norman which sparked the most interest, as the never-before-seen malware is what the Varonis’ report describes as a “high-performance miner for Monero cryptocurrency”, and was able to employ a number of evasion techniques to avoid discovery. 

SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

One way it does this is by terminating the mining process when the Windows Task Manager is opened. It’s a simple trick, but one which stops users from potentially spotting an application that shouldn’t be running, wuapp.exe. After the user closes the Task Manager, Norman resumes its work.

The malware has been built to be extremely persistent and it keeps in regular contact with a command and control server, which if needed, could provide new instructions or terminate the malware, although researchers note that during the analysis, no new commands were received.

It’s unknown who is behind Norman, but researchers suggest that the malware potentially emerged from France or another French-speaking country because there are various strings in the code of the malware which are written in French.

The organisation that was found to be infected with cryptominers has now need cleaned out the malware, but it could have avoided falling victim in the first place by following some simple security steps.

Organisations should keep operating systems and software up to date by applying patches and security updates – many forms of malware take advantage of known vulnerabilities, but if the correct patch has been applied, it can prevent the vulnerabilities being exploited.

When it comes to cryptominers specifically, organisations should monitor CPU activity on computers. With mining doing its work by exploiting processing power, organisations should take note of any noticeable degradation in processing speeds.

Cryptojacking became one of the most popular forms of cybercrime in 2018, but while some attackers have moved onto other forms of attack, secretly mining for Monero and other cryptocurrencies is still a source of illicit income for many others.

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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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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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