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Windows security warning: Ransomware is growing fastest, and just got harder to tackle

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We are losing the ransomware fight: This is why
An analysis of ransomware reporting over the past six months shows that while there’s a big focus on big targets, going after individual users is still very popular.

Ransomware is growing fast and could become more difficult to tackle as the criminal ecosystem shifts from a few dominant players to many smaller ones.

Tech security company Bitdefender analysed Windows security threats including ransomware, coin miners, fileless malware, PUAs (‘potentially unwanted applications’ that can compromise privacy or security), exploits (attacks based on unpatched or previously-unknown vulnerabilities) and banking Trojans.

Bitdefender found that of all these threats, ransomware reports saw the biggest year-on-year increase — 74.2%. Ransomware also ranked first in terms of the total number of reports.

According to the security company, the number of ransomware reports actually dropped during the first half of 2019, largely because the group behind the GandCrab ransomware throttled down their operation.

But since then, ransomware reports climbed again as new ransomware has emerged to fill the void left by GandCrab (it’s also possible they have now restarted operations).

While new ransomware such as Sodinokibi (aka REvil or Sodin) have not replaced GandCrab, they are seeing growth.

“The fall of GandCrab, which dominated the ransomware market with a share of over 50 percent, has left a power vacuum that various spinoffs are quickly filling. This fragmentation can only mean the ransomware market will become more powerful and more resilient against combined efforts by law enforcement and the cybersecurity industry to dismantle it,” the report said.

Bitdefender said reports of coin miners and fileless malware both declined slightly in the period, although it noted: “With cybercriminals intrinsically motivated by profit — and as a result investing time and effort in building threats that find alternatives ways of providing that — cryptocurrency miners are not likely to go away any time soon.”

All this focus on Windows means that malware writers have little time for Macs — or at least those owned by the average computer user. “With Windows remaining a lucrative battlefront, there is little incentive for malware authors to invest time and resources to develop mass-market Mac-centric threats, focusing mostly on advanced and sophisticated threats designed for C-level executives and decision makers,” said the Bitdefender report.

But before Apple fans get too smug, that’s not to say Macs are not immune to threats: ransomware may be scarce on macOS, but it has been “easily” targeted by cryptojacking operations, attacks using known vulnerabilities, and what Bitdefender calls ‘potentially unwanted applications’ — software that may be useful but may also compromise privacy or security.

In the first half of 2019, some of the most common threats directed at macOS revolved around coin miners, PUAs and exploits, according to Bitdefender telemetry. While most threats involving coin miners leverage compromised websites that “borrow” computing power to manufacture cryptocurrency, some attacks aim to steal user cookies from cryptocurrency wallets that frequently contain login credentials for various cryptocurrency exchanges.



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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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