Category Archive: Cybercrime

Ransomware strikes close to home

Posted on August 22, 2019

Photo credit: WFTV News

Today, the New York Times reported that “This has been the summer of crippling ransomware attacks” to all types of computer systems. Not only have 40 municipalities been struck — their data encrypted and a ransom demanded — but last week there was a report that another synagogue ransomware attack investigated by the FBI.

Cyber-hygiene. If you look closely at the screenshot above, you will see a pop-up from the anti-malware provider  Malwarebytes, stating that its database is out of date (Oops!). What should you be doing to ensure a good cyber-hygiene regimen? (see a longer article from Symantec here)? What can you do to protect your data?

  • Deploy an antivirus/anti-malware product. An up-to-date, real-time antivirus might stop a cyber-attack.
  • Backup. Make sure to back up your important documents and keep a backup set offsite (in case of fire, etc.). There’s no excuse. These days, cloud backups are free or low-cost and you can automatically sync documents to your cloud account.
  • Update, update,update. It’s a constant battle. Bad actors learn how to sneak into our systems to do bad things. Software providers constantly provide security patches designed to close the open doors that bad actors use. Update your operating systems (Window or Mac), browsers, remote management software, Adobe products, Microsoft products, firewalls — everything. True, updates sometimes cause problems, but not updating leads to worse problems.
  • Use a firewall.  Firewalls are the guards designed to protect your network from the internet. Whether you have a hardware or software firewall, it is critical that you keep it up to date.
  • Set strong passwords and use two-factor authentication. People still use easy-to-guess passwords like, “Welcome123”, fail to change default passwords, or use the same password for multiple sites. Check out password tips from Google here. Check out a good primer from PC Mag, Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up.
  • Before you pay a ransom ask for help! Contact the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI, or the Secret Service and work with an experienced advisor to help recover from a cyber attack. Victims of ransomware should report it immediately to CISA at www.us-cert.gov/report, a local FBI Field Office, or Secret Service Field Office.

Consider cyber-attack insurance. Cyber-attacks can be costly. Even if you are following all of the steps recommended above and have current backups of everything, you may still be attacked and getting back to business may be costly. A compromised computer or network will have to be restored. If there is a data breach and your members’ confidential data is compromised, other steps will have to be taken. Work with your insurance broker to determine what it would cost to recover from a cyber-attack versus the cost of the policy and do a cost-benefit analysis.

Note: Membership records. The synagogue was lucky, their membership data is stored in the cloud (e.g., Chaverware, ShulCloud). Most of the established synagogue management software stores data online, encrypts it and backs up its database. User agreements should specify that it is the vendor’s responsibility to protect your data and to be prepared to quickly restore it.

For more information visit the CISA Resource Page on Ransomware.

 

Cyber attacks increase, what can you do?

Posted on July 24, 2019

Cybersecurity Best Practices

The following is a list of best practices designed to keep individuals and their data safe when connected to the internet.

EMAIL SECURITY

  • Avoid opening emails, downloading attachments, or clicking on suspicious links sent from unknown or untrusted sources.

  • Verify unexpected attachments or links from known senders by contacting them via another method of communication.

  • Avoid providing your email address, phone number, or other personal information to unknown sources.

  • Avoid providing sensitive information to anyone via email. If you must, be sure to encrypt it before sending.

  • Be skeptical of emails written with a sense of urgency and requesting an immediate response, such as those stating your account will be closed if you do not click on an embedded link or provide the sender with sensitive information.

  • Beware of emails with poor design, grammar, or spelling.

  • Ensure an email’s “sender name” corresponds to the correct email address to identify common email spoofing tactics.

  • Never open spam emails; report them as spam, and/or delete them. Do not respond to spam emails or use included “Unsubscribe” links as this only confirms to the spammer that your email address is active and may exacerbate the problem.

PASSWORDS AND MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION

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Use strong passwords on all of your accounts.  

  • Long, complex passwords make you less susceptible to brute-force attacks.

  • Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

  • Avoid easy-to-guess elements like pets’ names, children’s names, birthdays, etc.

To reduce the risk of account compromise, account holders should:

  • Avoid using the same password across multiple accounts or platforms.

  • Never share their password with anyone, leave passwords out in the open for others to read, or store them in an unsecured, plaintext file on computers or mobile devices.

  • Consider using long acronyms or passphrases to increase the length of your password.

  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all accounts that offer it. This will help prevent unauthorized access in the event of credential compromise.

ON THE WEB

  • Ensure any websites requesting the insertion of account credentials and those used to conduct transactions online are encrypted with a valid digital certificate to ensure your data is secure. These website addresses will have a green padlock displayed in the URL field and will begin with https.

  • Avoid saving account information, such as passwords or credit card information, in web browsers or browser extensions.

  • Avoid using public computers and public Wi-Fi connections to log into accounts and access sensitive information.

  • Consider using ad-blocking, script-blocking, and coin-blocking browser extensions to protect systems against malicious advertising attacks and scripts designed to launch malware or mine cryptocurrency.

  • Sign out of accounts and shut down computers and mobile devices when not in use. Program systems and devices to automatically lock the active session after a set period of inactivity.

DEVICE SECURITY

  • Keep all hardware and software updated with the latest, patched version.

  • Run reputable antivirus or anti-malware applications on all devices and keep them updated with the latest version.

  • Create multiple, redundant backups of all critical and sensitive data and keep them stored off the network in the event of a ransomware infection or other destructive malware incident. This will allow you to recover lost files, if needed.

Could you be the next victim? How the Russians hacked us.

Posted on July 16, 2018

Phishing has been in the news lately. The latest indictment from the Special Counsel’s Office (i.e., Mueller) shows that it’s easy to become a victim (see the screenshot below and click on it for more info).  The attack was both sophisticated and surprisingly simple.

Government sources report that phishing attacks are up. You don’t have to be the target of sophisticated government cyber-warriors. Too many bad actors know the tricks of the trade and they can hijack your identity, your data and/or plant ransomware on your computer.

We’ve collected tips from various sources to help you to identify potentially-dangerous phishing emails. Just click on How to spot phishing like a pro. The document has several examples and is in PDF format so that you can download it and distribute it widely.

Remember to practice the basics:

  1. Don’t click on links that you don’t recognize.
  2. Use strong passwords.
  3. Install anti-virus/anti-malware protection and keep the definitions up to date.
  4. Install security updates for the software on your computer as they are released.

For more information, tips and resources see our dedicated webpage: www.jcrcny.org/cybersecurity.

 

Microsoft Customer Guidance for WannaCrypt attacks

Posted on May 15, 2017


Microsoft solution available to protect additional products

Today many of our customers around the world and the critical systems they depend on were victims of malicious “WannaCrypt” software. Seeing businesses and individuals affected by cyberattacks, such as the ones reported today, was painful. Microsoft worked throughout the day to ensure we understood the attack and were taking all possible actions to protect our customers. This blog spells out the steps every individual and business should take to stay protected. Additionally, we are taking the highly unusual step of providing a security update for all customers to protect Windows platforms that are in custom support only, including Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003. Customers running Windows 10 were not targeted by the attack today.

Details are below.

  • In March, we released a security update which addresses the vulnerability that these attacks are exploiting. Those who have Windows Update enabled are protected against attacks on this vulnerability. For those organizations who have not yet applied the security update, we suggest you immediately deploy Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010.
  • For customers using Windows Defender, we released an update earlier today which detects this threat as Ransom:Win32/WannaCrypt. As an additional “defense-in-depth” measure, keep up-to-date anti-malware software installed on your machines. Customers running anti-malware software from any number of security companies can confirm with their provider, that they are protected.
  • This attack type may evolve over time, so any additional defense-in-depth strategies will provide additional protections. (For example, to further protect against SMBv1 attacks, customers should consider blocking legacy protocols on their networks).

We also know that some of our customers are running versions of Windows that no longer receive mainstream support. That means those customers will not have received the above mentioned Security Update released in March. Given the potential impact to customers and their businesses, we made the decision to make the Security Update for platforms in custom support only, Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003, broadly available for download (see links below).

Customers who are running supported versions of the operating system (Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, Windows 10, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016) will have received the security update MS17-010 in March. If customers have automatic updates enabled or have installed the update, they are protected. For other customers, we encourage them to install the update as soon as possible.

This decision was made based on an assessment of this situation, with the principle of protecting our customer ecosystem overall, firmly in mind.

Some of the observed attacks use common phishing tactics including malicious attachments. Customers should use vigilance when opening documents from untrusted or unknown sources. For Office 365 customers we are continually monitoring and updating to protect against these kinds of threats including Ransom:Win32/WannaCrypt. More information on the malware itself is available from the Microsoft Malware Protection Center on the Windows Security blog. For those new to the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, this is a technical discussion focused on providing the IT Security Professional with information to help further protect systems.

We are working with customers to provide additional assistance as this situation evolves, and will update this blog with details as appropriate.

Phillip Misner, Principal Security Group Manager  Microsoft Security Response Center

Further resources:

Download English language security updates: Windows Server 2003 SP2 x64, Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86, Windows XP SP2 x64, Windows XP SP3 x86, Windows XP Embedded SP3 x86, Windows 8 x86, Windows 8 x64

Download localized language security updates: Windows Server 2003 SP2 x64, Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86, Windows XP SP2 x64, Windows XP SP3 x86, Windows XP Embedded SP3 x86, Windows 8 x86, Windows 8 x64

General information on ransomware: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/portal/mmpc/shared/ransomware.aspx

MS17-010 Security Update: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/security/ms17-010.aspx

Ransomware: Lessons learned

Don’t say that we didn’t warn you (see here, here and especially here). Here’s a tale about a synagogue in the NYC area, but it could happen to anyone.

In mid-November the rabbi’s secretary was going about her business on the shul computer. Whether she was duped to click on an infected popup advertisement or she visited an infected website the damage was done. What we do know is that this ransom note appeared on her screen:

ransomware-warning

Then the panic. The note was accurate, they were locked out of the shul’s only computer. What should the shul do?

  • They couldn’t get to their Quickbooks.
  • They couldn’t get to their member software.
  • They couldn’t get to the file with the Yahrzeits.
  • They couldn’t get to their record of Kol Nidre pledges

Some computer-savvy members tried various tools, but no luck. The problem was eventually brought to the synagogue board and a hearty debate followed. Would they just be paying a ransom and get nothing in return (See the FBI guidance here)?  Finally, the vote was to pay the ransom, 3 bitcoins (almost $2,400).  Fortunately, the thieves were relatively honest. The synagogue’s files were decrypted and they could recover their data. Many other victims pay, but their computers remain locked.

Lessons learned

People, there’s nothing new here. Check out JCRC-NY’s Cybersecurity Resources page and our cybersecurity blog posts. This episode is an expensive reminder that it’s crucial to practice good cyber-hygiene.

  1. Backup, backup, backup. There is no excuse. External thumb drives and hard drives are cheap. Buy one and take the time to configure the backup program so that it automatically, regularly keeps critical data safe. There are many free or low-cost cloud options. Backup to Google Drive, Dropbox or a cloud server provided by your anti-virus/backup program. The data in some shul membership management programs are automatically saved to the cloud which may even be monitored by full-time cybersecurity staff. Finally, more than one backup (e.g., one onsite, one offsite or in the cloud)  is better than one … one is better than none.
  2. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date. The bad guys are smart and they’re getting smarter. Somehow, the bad guys got the rabbi’s secretary to click on the infected link. Our poor synagogue had anti-virus software, but it was a year out-of-date (duh, it turns itself off).  Most of the better anti-virus programs are updated constantly and will probably stop a ransomware attack before your data is seized. Buy a license that will protect all of your computers. (see bargain software rates for nonprofits at Techsoup).
  3. Have strong passwords and record them. Whoever set up the synagogue’s computer did follow “best practice” and didn’t give the users “Administrator” access (pardon the techy-talk). The trouble was that no one knew that password so the consultant who assisted the synagogue had to get permission from the board to reset the password before she could revive the computer. Click to https://www.lockdownyourlogin.com/ for the latest guidance on passwords.
  4. Beware of residual “bread crumbs”. Some ransomware leaves malware on a computer so that the bad guys can re-infect the computer. After all, you paid once, won’t you pay again? Once you have recovered the encrypted files, use multiple products to scan your computer: first your new, up-to-date anti-virus program, then a some others (the trial or basic versions are available free online) such as Malwarebytes, CCleaner, SUPERAntispyware, to name a few. There is no perfect solution. Each may find something that the others missed.
  5. Cybersecurity is a board responsibility. The incident was an expensive lesson. When no one on staff has computer skills, the board has a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that the staff know the basics of cyber-hygiene: the software is being updated, the backups are made, the anti-virus programs are working.

Finally, kudos to JCRC-NY’s outside computer maven from Dragonfly Technologies, who dropped everything to travel to the shul and spent many hours into the night to get them back in business and up-to-date.