Category Archive: Computer Malware

New cyberthreats (including CryptoLocker Ransomware)

Stop. Think. Connect.

Click on the icon to download a set of posters to help you create a culture of cybersecurity.

The FBI and the National Cybersecurity and Communications have identified new computer malware threats and recommend that, “organizations should increase vigilance and evaluate their capabilities encompassing planning, preparation, detection, and response for such an event.” Destructive malware is a direct threat to your daily operations. Because of the increasing sophistication of malware, anyone (employee, client, volunteer, student) who  is on your network could trigger an infection affecting everyone. Organizations should work to develop a culture of safe computing.

  1. The publication, Planning and Recommended Guidance: Destructive Malware is technical, but it is a good guide for techies. Please pass it on to your IT departments and/0r consultants to assist them to protect you, your data, your credit and your reputation.
  2. The National Cyber Awareness System reports outbreak of “ransomware” that restricts access to infected computers and demands a payment to to decrypt and recover your files (see CryptoLocker Ransomware Infections for more information and how to undo the damage). The latest means of infection appears to be phishing emails designed to mimic the look of legitimate businesses and through phony FedEx and UPS tracking notices. Some victims saw the malware appear following after a previous infection from existing botnets lurking on infected computers.


    • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages or submit any information to webpages in links.
    • Use caution when opening email attachments. Refer to Using Caution with Email Attachments for more information on safely handling email attachments.
    • Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software.
    • Perform regular backups of all systems to limit the impact of data and/or system loss.
    • Apply changes to your Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems and Firewalls to detect any known malicious activity.
    • Secure open-share drives by only allowing connections from authorized users.
    • Keep your operating system and software up-to-date with the latest patches.
    • Refer to the Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams (pdf) document for more information on avoiding email scams.
    • Refer to the Security Tip Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information on social engineering attacks.

US-CERT and DHS encourage users and administrators experiencing a ransomware infection NOT to respond to extortion attempts by attempting payment and instead to report the incident to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Related information:

For more tips about cybersecurity, check out the following non-technical publications:

Syria: potential repercussions

The escalating drumbeat for military action naturally leads to questions about possible terrorism here in New York. Note: as of today there are no specific, credible threats against New York or the Jewish community. Nevertheless, all Jewish organizations should review their security and emergency preparedness plans to ensure that they are up-to-date and that they can be readily implemented. Some specifics:

High Holidays

If you are an organizations hosting High Holiday services and/or programs you should:

  1. Notify your local police about all planned services and programs. Discuss the number of people expected at each service and ask them for any suggestions that could improve your security and emergency preparedness plans.
  2. Review your security and emergency preparedness measures, especially access control, evacuation and lockdowns. Meet with your staff and volunteers and make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what to do. Check the “High Holidays” category for more suggestions..

Potential for Cyberattacks

Last week the Syrian Electronic Army compromised the New York Times website and others. Western financial institutions are also targetted by others. We all should review our own cybersecurity because, in the past, anti-Israel hackers have attacked Jewish-related sites. See JCRC’s Cybersecurity Resources.

This week the FBI distributed the following:

  • The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-regime hacker group that emerged during Syrian antigovernment protests in 2011, has been compromising high-profile media outlets in an effort to spread proregime propaganda. The SEA’s primary capabilities include spearphishing, Web defacements, and hijacking social media accounts to spread propaganda. Over the past several months, the SEA has been highly effective in compromising multiple high-profile media outlets.
  • The SEA has recently compromised high profile media Web sites through a new tactic of hacking third party networks – including a Domain Name System (DNS) registrar and a content recommendation website.
  • In April 2013, the SEA compromised the Twitter feed of the Associated Press, posting a false story that President Obama was injured, causing in a brief drop in the stock market.
  • In addition to Syrian hackers, groups or individuals sympathetic to the SEA may also be observed participating in CNO efforts against US Web sites and networks.
  • Please maintain heightened awareness of your network traffic and take appropriate steps to maintain your network security. If you detect anomalous or malicious traffic or network behavior, please contact your local FBI Cyber Task Force or the FBI CyWatch (855) 292-3937 immediately.

Defending Against Hacktivism

In general, hacktivism cyber attacks may result in denial of service, Web site defacements, and the compromise of sensitive information which may lead to harassment and identify theft. Although the specific OpUSA claims referenced above speak specifically to DDoS attacks, precautionary measures to mitigate a range of potential hacktivism threats include:

  • Implement a data back-up and recovery plan to maintain copies of sensitive or proprietary data in a separate and secure location. Backup copies of sensitive data should not be readily accessible from local networks. 
  • Have a DDoS mitigation strategy ready ahead of time and keep logs of any potential attacks.
  • Scrutinize links contained in e-mail attachments.
  • Regularly mirror and maintain an image of critical system files.
  • Encrypt and secure sensitive information.
  • Use strong passwords, implement a schedule for changing passwords frequently and do not reuse passwords for multiple accounts.
  • Enable network monitoring and logging where feasible.
  • Be aware of social engineering tactics aimed at obtaining sensitive information.
  • Securely eliminate sensitive files and data from hard drives when no longer needed or required.
  • Establish a relationship with local law enforcement and participate in IT information sharing groups for early warnings of threats.

Protecting your cyberlives

Posted on July 31, 2013

DHS has an excellent resource: the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). Their website has information ranging from Computer Security 101 to advanced information for IT professionals.

Remember: Scams, bots and viruses continue to proliferate. Use caution when opening email messages and take the following preventive measures to protect themselves from phishing scams and malware campaigns.

  • Do not click on or submit any information to webpages.
  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments. Refer to the Security Tip Using Caution with Email Attachments for more information on safely handling email attachments.
  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Users who are infected should change all passwords AFTER removing the malware from their system.
  • Refer to the Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams (pdf) document for more information on avoiding email scams.
  • Refer to the Security Tip Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information on social engineering attacks.

Other great information for non-techies from the US-CERT website.

Top 10 Ways to Improve the Security of a New Computer

  • Top 10 Ways to Improve the Security of a New Computer Because our computers have such critical roles in our lives and we trust them with so much personal information, it’s important to improve their security so we can continue to rely on them and keep our information safe.Virus Basics
  • Virus Basics Learn about viruses, what they can do to your systems, and how to avoid them and lessen their impact.
  • Home Network SecuritySecuring Wireless Networks In today’s connected world, almost everyone has at least one Internet-connected devices. With the number of these devices on the rise, it is important to implement a security strategy to minimize their potential for exploitation (see Securing the Internet of Things). Internet-connected devices may be used by nefarious entities to collect personal information, steal identities, compromise financial data, and silently listen to—or watch—users. However, taking a few precautions in the configuration and use of your devices can help prevent this type of activity.
  • Staying Safe on Social Networking Sites The popularity of social networking sites continues to increase. The nature of these sites introduces security risks, so you should take certain precautions.

Considerations for digital & online security at Jewish institutions

The hackings of 82 synagogue websites during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense by the “Moroccan Ghosts” brought appropriate responses from law enforcement agencies. The intrusions should remind us that cybersecurity is in our own hands. The following recommendations from the ADL make sense.

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New hack attack on websites

Posted on August 19, 2012

For those of you with websites.

The problem

There is a relatively new attack on websites hitting MySQL. If you don’t understand this, check with your techie or your ISP to confirm if your website is vulnerable.

How do you know that you’ve been compromised? Google is ever alert and will mark your site as “dangerous”. Websites/web hosting companies subscribe to “blacklists” of such sites. Firefox and Chrome check the blacklists before going to a site and will tell a user, Warning – visiting this website may harm your computer!”.

Once your site is hacked it must be “cleaned”. After doing so, you can notify Google, request that it be removed from the blacklist and 3 to 24 hours later the site will be unblacklisted.

Best practices

  1. Make regular backups of your website. Even if your ISP takes care of this it couldn’t  hurt to have another.
  2. Your website probably has all kinds of access passwords (FTP, SQL administration, etc.). Make sure that you have strong passwords at every option. This usually includes multiple words, mixing capital and lower case letters and using numbers and symbols. See this Consumer Reports article for more explanations and tips.