Traditional Endpoint Protection Platforms Are No Longer Sufficient

Endpoint protection is a critical component of any organization’s cybersecurity strategy. It involves the use of software and hardware solutions to protect the various endpoint devices within a network, such as laptops, servers, and mobile devices, from cyber threats. Protection at the endpoint is even more important in the age of remote work and bring-your-own-device IT policies when endpoints frequently have access to sensitive applications and data while being outside the protection of traditional network-based security solutions.

Endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) have evolved to include advanced features such as real-time threat detection and response, machine learning-based malware detection, and cloud-based management. These solutions are designed to detect and respond to a wide range of cyber threats, including malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks.

Current Shortcomings of Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs)

Despite recent advancements in endpoint protection, there are still several shortcomings that organizations need to be aware of:

  1. Ineffective: EPPs are only as effective as their ability to detect and respond to new and emerging threats. As a result, with the constant evolution of cyber threats, it can be difficult for EPPs to keep up and provide adequate protection.
  2. Resource Intensive: Endpoint protection solutions can be resource-intensive and negatively impact the performance of devices they protect. This can be especially problematic for organizations with limited IT resources. EPPs typically have extensive setup and configuration requirements and require a considerable time investment from already overstretched security and IT teams.
  3. Limited Protection: EPPs can sometimes be bypassed by sophisticated attackers or even by users who may unknowingly download malware or fall for phishing scams. They rely on users to make good decisions to prevent certain attacks. For example, if an employee receives an email that appears to be from their bank and it requests personal information, they may provide it without realizing it’s a phishing scam. In this case, the EPP may not detect the threat because it is disguised as legitimate communication. In short, while EPPs are a critical component of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy, they are dependent on human decisions that are frequently affected by misplaced trust.

An Emergent Solution

As organizations have increasingly come to see that EPPs cannot provide a holistic security solution, a new class of “enterprise browsers” and browser-based security solutions have taken off and gained attention from investors. While most do provide an additional layer of protection, they simultaneously increase the complexity of the IT environment on top of the complexity already introduced by the EPPs. Still, these solutions can help address some of EPPs shortcomings by enforcing zero-trust concepts and removing the burden from users of making judgments about which links and files are safe to click.

ConcealBrowse is the newest entry in this emerging class of solutions. Instead of introducing a new layer of IT complexity, ConcealBrowse provides plug-and-play protection via an easy-to-manage browser extension. ConcealBrowse transparently checks every link and every web site a user visits with both historical and predictive intelligence about URLs. Dangerous activity is blocked, while risky sites and applications are opened in a cloud-based isolated browsing environment where they can’t access your devices or network. ConcealBrowse can fill in the gaps left by EPPs in a package that is easy to manage and affordable to deploy across an organization.

Click here to try out ConcealBrowse for free or schedule a demo so that we can show you how ConcealBrowse can drastically improve your cybersecurity posture.

email phishing

Conceal Threat Alert: Government Employees Money Stolen through Targeted Phishing Campaign

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency, and Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center have released a joint advisory warning network defenders about the malicious use of legitimate remote monitoring and management (RMM) software against government employees to steal banking credentials.

In October 2022, CISA identified a widespread cyber campaign involving the malicious use of legitimate RMM software. Specifically, criminal actors sent phishing emails that led to the download of legitimate RMM software which the actors used in a refund scam to steal money from victim bank accounts.

In one technique, the actors sent an email that mimicked legitimate brands with a link to an actor-controlled website that provided an RMM install file pre-configured to connect to the actor’s servers. In another, they provided a phone number to call in the email, and upon calling the number the victim would be directed to one of the malicious web sites.

In both cases, the actor would then deceive the victim into logging into bank accounts while the actor was monitoring their actions remotely via the RMM software. They could then manipulate what the victim was seeing on their screen to convince them they had received an excessive refund, that they would then be directed to “correct” by sending the actor money.

The authors of the advisory assess that this campaign could lead to additional types of malicious activity such as selling victim account access to other cybercriminals or advanced persistent threat actors. This highlights the threat of malicious cyber activity associated with legitimate RMM software: after gaining access to the target network via phishing or other techniques, malicious actors are known to use legitimate RMM software as a backdoor for persistence and/or command and control (C2).

Once the RMM software has been installed by the victim and the attacker has gained their trust, there is little that existing solutions can do to prevent the attacker from stealing the data they are targeting. That is why it’s crucial to prevent the attack from its earliest stages, in this case – and in many others – when the user attempts to visit the malicious web site in their browser.

What’s the Best Browser Security for Phishing Protection?

We built ConcealBrowse because we know that more and more of company’s employees are working and living inside the browser. Our advanced anti-phishing protection combined with our intelligent decision engine protects users from phishing attacks using a combination of intelligence and computer vision technology that identifies web sites mimicking real brands and blocking users from downloading files or entering their information on those sites. In this case, that means the RMM would never have been downloaded by the potential victims in the first place.

If you’d like to see how ConcealBrowse can protect your business against phishing and ransomware attacks with our advanced browser protection, try ConcealBrowse for free today.

Written by: Conceal Research Team

password breach

Conceal Threat Alert: Re-used Passwords Result in Breach of 35,000 PayPal Accounts

American Banker recently reported on a massive credential stuffing attack that resulted in 35,000 PayPal accounts being breached. The attack exposed personal information including Social Security numbers and phone numbers.

Credential stuffing attacks utilize stolen user login IDs and passwords from various sources, including phishing attacks and credential-stealing malware, to programmatically attempt to log in to large numbers of user accounts. Even if the attacker steals credentials for one website, credential stuffing is often successful because people use the same credentials across multiple sites. This means the attackers can conduct phishing attacks that mimic less sensitive web sites than financial ones like PayPal, then use those credentials to access more sensitive websites and steal money or more sensitive information.

While PayPal said it was unclear how the credentials used in this attack were obtained, they did say they have no evidence they came from PayPal systems and were “likely” from phishing.

PayPal didn’t report that any users lost money from the breach, but given the sensitivity of the personal information stolen, the attackers have gained some key tools for conducting follow-on attacks that could allow them to cause financial harm to the victims in the future.

How Can Companies Stop Credential Stuffing Attacks?

Credential stuffing is the culmination of a chain of attacks that each attempt to steal more and more sensitive information. The initial credentials can be obtained in various ways. In addition to phishing, credentials can also be purchased on the dark web or obtained in data theft operations against less secure targets. These credentials can then be used en masse in credential stuffing attacks against a wide array of web sites. Because so many accounts in so many places can be attacked in an automated fashion, at least some successes are almost guaranteed. With access to personal accounts, the attacker now has a database of personal information that they can use to conduct more targeted attacks with more valuable payouts.

Because there are so many stages of these attacks and multiple ways that the credentials can be obtained in the first place, there’s no silver bullet solution to completely prevent them. For instance, two-factor authentication can often thwart the credential-stuffing stage of the attack, but this occurs after credentials have already been stolen. Using unique passwords for every account can also be effective. Several measures are required to secure customer data from other types of data theft attacks on servers.

All this makes the problem of protecting against these attacks sound daunting – and it is – but the key factor is that many of these attacks are possible because an earlier phishing attack was successful. ConcealBrowse’s advanced phishing protection sits at the beginning of the attack chain, the browser, and prevents attackers from obtaining credentials in the first place.

Head Off Credential Theft with Advanced Phishing Protection and Dynamic Remote Browser Isolation

Click here to sign up for a free ConcealBrowse account to see for yourself how ConcealBrowse can protect your company and employees from phishing attacks and malware. If the attackers can’t get your users’ credentials now, they can’t use them to steal sensitive data across the Internet later.

Written by: Conceal Research Team

Chinese threat actor malware

Conceal Threat Alert: Chinese Threat Actor Targets Users in WhatsApp

A recent white paper by researchers at Cyjax uncovered the activities and infrastructure of a financially-motivated Chinese threat actor abusing trusted brands in WhatsApp links to perform a variety of malicious actions, such as delivering malware and malicious advertising. They labeled the group Fangxiao.

Fangxiao stands apart from other criminally motivated groups because of the sheer scale of their attacks. One of the strategies uses to stay anonymous is to rapidly iterate through domain names. In one case, they used over 300 in one day. In fact, the researchers uncovered more than 42,000 domains used by the attackers since 2017.

These domains mimicked domains of legitimate companies in a variety of verticals and several countries. The attackers send links to users in WhatsApp that specify a brand the corresponding landing page should impersonate. This allows Fangxiao actors to tailor messages to any brand they think is likely to be effective for a particular audience. The brand is passed to the landing page, which is then automatically customized to mimic the brand in question to build trust with the user. The page is further customized based on the user’s location to show local currency units to appear local regardless of what country they are visiting from. Like the Disneyland Malware Team we wrote about previously, the success of the attack hinges on the users’ trust of the brand overcoming any suspicions they might have about the link.

These extra touches are meant to keep the user engaged with the site and garner trust. They are taken through a journey that results in them providing their friends’ WhatsApp numbers so the attack can be spread to their contacts, downloading malicious software, and generating affiliate revenue for the attackers.

How Dynamic Remote Browser Isolation and Phishing Protection Can Stop These Attacks

The fact that the Fangxiao actors utilize WhatsApp links as the initial attack vector highlights a growing trend in Internet usage: While many attacks happen in the browser, the plethora of communication and other apps containing web links means that email-based phishing and malware protection isn’t enough. Regardless of how a malicious URL reaches a user, the attack happens in the browser. That’s why ConcealBrowse checks every URL being opened in the browser, regardless of where the user clicks it.

ConcealBrowse uses up-to-the-minute threat intelligence – including about newly-registered domains that haven’t even been used yet – to determine which are risky so that they can be opened in an isolated environment, off your endpoint and off your network. Additional phishing protection then identifies fraudulently-branded web sites and prevents users from providing any data to them or interacting with them.

Try ConcealBrowse for free, or schedule a demo so we can show you how ConcealBrowse provides phishing protection and malware protection against threats like Fangxiao.

Written by: Conceal Research Team

Digital global world map technology research develpoment analysi

It’s 2023 and We Are Still Worried About Ransomware

While 2021 was the most prevalent year of ransomware to date, 2022 ended on pace to take the lead.  Here’s what we know going into 2023.

Ransomware — a term we are all tired of hearing but a threat that remains front and center for the security community and beyond.  Arguably the most dangerous attack vector in cybersecurity, ransomware continues to cripple organizations and countries, but why?  Being front and center for years now, shouldn’t ransomware be under control? 

Current investments in security tools are not solving the global crisis surrounding ransomware.  As a result, the United States just held their second annual summit on Ransomware where global leaders from 36 countries and many private institutions came together to strategize a global response to ransomware.  The current ransomware strategy has not worked. 

The Security Gap 

For years, the top of the cybersecurity agenda has been to protect against ransomware.  So, why is it that years later the objective remains the same?  The answer is simple – there is a gap in tooling.  Vendors are not addressing the challenges surrounding ransomware.  As a result, organizations continue to invest in tooling to address many of their ransomware related objectives.  Unfortunately, more often than not, the tooling being invested in does not fully solve for Ransomware’s top challenges.  Bad things are still happening.  

One of the biggest challenges with ransomware is its continuous evolution.  While 85% of ransomware attacks begin with a targeted phishing campaign on an end user, the manner in which the campaign is conducted has exponentially grown in sophistication.  Traditionally, phishing has been focused on targeting employee work emails addresses and attacking through one of three attack types: a link with malicious code behind it, a fake landing page that captures user credentials, or through an attachment with a malicious exploit embedded.  Nowadays, while phishing is still the number one entry point for ransomware, the attack vector is stemming from a wide range of applications.  

Addressing the Tool Gap

Even with the growing vectors for phishing, one thing remains constant – the browser is a critical gateway for all attack types.  As a result, more often than not, a user must go to the internet to be exploited.  Protection at the browser can solve for internet-based exploitation.  

ConcealBrowse offers an extra layer of protection against phishing, distrusting risky web sites by default and providing protection even when email filtering fails. Once a user clicks a phishing link, ConcealBrowse goes into action, scanning the URL and any resources loaded by it to ensure they haven’t been flagged as dangerous. At the same time, ConcealBrowse uses advanced AI to analyze the pages for signs of a phishing attack, and blocks attackers at 

All of this powerful functionality is delivered in a simple plug-and-play package that requires minimal setup and configuration for your IT or security teams. In addition, information derived from our intelligence engine about visited URLs is available via our advanced telemetry feeds, and can be easily integrated into the rest of your security stack. 

As social engineering continues to advance exponentially, it will become ever more important to have the right tools to keep your network safe from phishing and ransomware. Click here to try ConcealBrowse today.

ransomware

Conceal Threat Alert: Despite Boosted Funding and Attention, 2022 Saw No Improvement in Government Ransomware Defense

Cybersecurity provider Emisoft recently released statistics indicating that 2022 saw no decrease in successful ransomware attacks among U.S. local government and healthcare providers despite new legislation at both the federal and state levels aimed at curbing it. According to the numbers provided in the report, 106 local governments, 44 universities and colleges, 45 school districts and 25 healthcare providers were affected by ransomware attacks last year.

The report goes on to detail some of the impacts of these attacks: The local government of Quincy, MA paid a $500,000 ransom in 2022. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the U.S., refused to pay a ransom and had stolen data released on the Internet. In seventeen separate instances, ransomware attacks on hospitals resulted in protected health information being stolen. In one of these, a 3-year-old patient received an overdose of pain medicine because the system for calculating the dosage was compromised.

The trend isn’t improving

Although the ransomware threat is widely recognized and countless dollars are spent by companies and governments to try and stop it, the impact has not lessened over the last several years. According to the report, the number of state and local governments known to have been impacted by ransomware in 2022 was 106, roughly the same as the 113 reported in 2019 and 2022 and more than the 77 reported in 2021. The picture looks equally bleak for the education sector. The number of incidents affecting it has remained steady between 84 and 89 incidents each of the last four years.

How can organizations fight back?

Unfortunately, it’s clear there isn’t a silver bullet that will put an end to the very lucrative ransomware business. Legislation and user security training have proven to be largely ineffective, and the amount of money spent on hardware and software solutions continues to skyrocket. The problem has become even more difficult to manage as more and more business applications are now accessed through the web browser and workers now conduct business on work and personal devices, both at home and in the office.

We developed ConcealBrowse push zero trust principles that harden your attack surface to the edge, wherever that edge may be. Phishing and other social engineering techniques have become sophisticated enough to trick even the most savvy and well-trained users, and the web browser is one of the most common attack vectors for ransomware gangs. 

ConcealBrowse uses multiple intelligence sources in our decision engine that identifies and isolates risky sites and blocks phishing techniques and malicious downloads. While no solution can prevent 100% of ransomware attacks, ConcealBrowse fortifies the weakest point on your attack surface and removes the burden of judging risk from users. Click here to sign up today for a free version of ConcealBrowse and see how it can make your organization safer from the scourge of ransomware.

Written by: Conceal Research Team

Don’t Blame the User for Clicking on Links

It’s not the user’s job to provide phishing protection for your company

Finally, we have a blog from a reputable source (the UK’s NCSC) stating the true facts about users clicking on links.

“Users frequently need to click on links from unfamiliar domains to do their job and being able to spot a phish is not their job.” That is so true.

No matter how much cyber awareness training we have had or how regular it’s reinforced, most of us are time pressed, caught unawares and will click on something that merits a further look. Even the links that are scrutinised to the nth degree can hide something malicious. The best browser security solutions recognize this fact.

See below – Can you tell me which is the malicious one? Hovering over the links – both look like they point to the Computer Associates site. But clicking on the wrong one will place you at risk of being infected.

Blog Image

Spoiler alert: It’s the first one. Even on hover over it looks like it will take you to the genuine site. It won’t and that’s because the destination domain name’s characters are not ASCII and are Cyrillic. Humans would be hard pressed to tell them apart. The browser knows they are not the same domain and hence will take you where you did not intend to go. Good luck trying to avoid that.

Though not entirely obvious from the NCSC’s blog post, it is worth mentioning those malicious links crop up not just in emails, they can be shared over Linkedin, Slack, social media, adverts hosted on highly popular content. All the places targets are likely to access to do their jobs.

Remember for an attack to work, as pointed out in NCSC’s blog, they only need one person to click on the link in whatever form it took: Office365, Zendesk, Slack, Salesforce etc. Whatever applications your staff need to work with, the links they access can harbour a huge risk to your company.

How does ConcealBrowse take over the responsibility for phishing security?

We at Conceal looked at this problem and produced a novel solution: ConcealBrowse. It’s a browser extension that converts your browser into a secure browser. We made the same assumption as the NCSC at the outset of formulating our solution, that users will follow their noses and click to follow content as they need to, not always mindful of where that may take them.

ConcealBrowse takes away the implicit trust and makes the decision to isolate anything being accessed via any application that is known bad or unknown. For example, short links, QR codes and IP addresses which reveal nothing about where they will eventually take you. Misspelled domain names like shown above or subdomains of more trusted domains

Why does it protect you when you are using other applications like Slack, etc.? Quite simply these applications will connect the user to the Internet using the default browser. The ConcealBrowse extension is engaged. When opened with our dynamic remote browser isolation, the user can still work with the web site. The users simply see a rendering of the website as if the web page had opened locally. It has not. It has been opened in the cloud, air-gapped from the user.

Entering credentials into phishing pages and attempting to download malicious files are blocked and thus the risk from users having to access content has been managed. To be honest, most web pages that users visit have no need to be isolated – so they are not. ConcealBrowse makes the decision as to whether to isolate based on its gathered intelligence and threat intelligence feeds you may have access to. Because of this, 99% of web pages are not isolated. The experience to the user is seamless. The ConcealBrowse solution is completely independent of any other security controls and works with all common operating systems and virtual desktop environments.

You, too, can enjoy the benefits of zero trust browser protection. Just click here to sign up for a free ConcealBrowse account.

 

Malware search engine ads

Conceal Threat Alert: Attackers Using Search Engine Ads to Beat Antiphishing Software.

A recent FBI public service announcement highlights that cyber criminals are using search engine advertisement services to abuse users’ trust of brands to direct them to malicious sites that deliver ransomware and conduct credential theft. At the end of this post, we’ll explain how you can start protecting your company’s network from this threat by signing up for a free trial of our zero-trust dynamic remote browser isolation and antiphishing software, ConcealBrowse.

Falsely-branded ads as the lure

According to the announcement, attackers are creating ads using logos and similar domains of trusted brands to trick users into clicking on the ads and visiting the malicious sites. A similar technique is often used in phishing attacks utilizing email as the attack vector. Since many antiphishing services already exist to protect users inside their email clients, this tactic is designed to bypass any checks done on email entirely.

Because the ads look legitimate and are related to something the user is conducting a web search for, the user may be more likely to take the malicious action on the page they are visiting. For instance, if they received the ad by searching for a piece of software they want to download, and both the ad and the page they visit look legitimate, the likelihood the user will download the software is greater than it would be if they received an unsolicited email with the same link.

To make matters even more confusing, these ads target the same keywords as the legitimate site so these malicious ads can appear above legitimate results. This creates an extra layer of confusion for the end user and increases the likelihood they will click on the malicious link instead of the legitimate one.

How can companies protect themselves?

Most of the countermeasures suggested by the FBI revolve around educating users and asking them to take extra precautions whenever they click on ads. These suggestions aren’t enough. No matter how much training they have or how careful they think they’re being, users will always make the wrong decision at some point. ConcealBrowse provides zero trust protection against these threats, checking every link regardless of the source. ConcealBrowse makes sure untrusted sites are opened in our dynamic isolated web browsing environment where they can’t access your user’s devices or networks.

ConcealBrowse phishing protection provides an additional layer of security when sites try to mimic the logos or domains of real sites by identifying these threats with computer vision and AI and blocking them from users, even if the sites have never been seen before.

Try ConcealBrowse today

Sign up for a free trial of ConcealBrowse today and see for yourself how easy it is to protect your users from untrusted web sites and apps. If you’d like to talk to a member of our sales team and see a demo first, you can click here to do that too. We would love to show you how ConcealBrowse pushes zero-trust to the edge and protects your users where they are most vulnerable; in the browser.

Written by: Conceal Research Team

New malware families

Conceal Threat Alert: New Malware Families

DarkReading recently summarized a Fortinet analysis of three new ransomware variants that were added to the exponentially growing list that pose a threat to businesses of all sizes. The report analyzed three new ransomware tools new in 2022: Vohuk, ScareCrow, and AESRT. While none of them introduced anything new or novel, they nevertheless contributed to the growing financial cost and reputational harm that is the hallmark of the ongoing ransomware plague.   

The first, Vohuk, has primarily targeted users in Germany and India, according to Fortinet. The ransomware encrypts the user’s data and replaces their desktop background with a message pointing them to a readme.txt file. That file contains instructions for submitting a payment to unlock the data via an email message.

ScareCrow similarly encrypts user data and provides instructions in a readme file, but in this case, the contact link is via Telegram channels. This ransomware family targets users around the world, and appears to have similarities to – and substantial improvements on – the Conti ransomware that was reportedly leaked earlier this year.

The AESRT ransomware variant does essentially the same thing, but provides data-unlocking instructions via a popup menu. The similarity between each of these unrelated ransomware families is evidence that attackers have found a formula that works and is repeatable.

How can remote browser isolation and phishing protection protect your workforce?

This research doesn’t address the methods that are being used with these specific malware families, but does note that phishing is the most-used delivery vector for ransomware in general. We’ve discussed several social engineering techniques in previous Threat Alerts that are used to abuse users’ trust and get them to visit malicious sites. These types of attacks almost always take place in the browser. So, while browser-based protection isn’t a silver bullet to block every possible delivery vector, it does address the most common and the one that is best for social engineering attacks.

ConcealBrowse can play a key role in any company’s anti-ransomware security posture. With more and more of each employee’s work taking place in the browser, moving zero-trust principles to the edge of your network can have a massive impact on your organization’s overall security. While ConcealBrowse can play a key role on machines within your network, it also provides an easy-to-manage and affordable option to deploy to every member of your distributed workforce. Because ConcealBrowse works at the endpoint, it can protect your assets even from threats to devices connecting to your network and services remotely.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how ConcealBrowse can protect your organization from malware, click here to schedule a demo today.

Russian phishing campaign

Conceal Threat Alert: Russian Campaign

Likely-Russian APT actors threaten Western governments

The Threat & Detection Research Team at Sekoia.io recently reported on a suspected Russian intrusion set that utilizes phishing campaigns to steal credentials of military and strategic research targets in mainly Western countries.

One of the most interesting characteristics of this attack was the method the attackers used to bypass traditional email-based anti-phishing tools. Instead of including the malicious link directly in the email, which likely would have been caught by most phishing protection solutions, the attackers attached a benign PDF file that included the malicious link inside. By not including any malicious code within the PDF itself, the attack further evades any endpoint protection that relies on file scanning.

This attacker also uses a devious social engineering trick – The PDF is meant to mimic an error message within the PDF rendering engine and provides a link to “open the file” elsewhere. That link leads to a web page that tries to collect the victim’s credentials using a tool called EvilGinx, which conducts a man-in-the-middle attack that can steal user credentials and session cookies from the user as they access legitimate login pages.

How can Conceal’s Internet browsing security solution protect you from similar attacks?

Because ConcealBrowse resides in the web browser, it doesn’t matter where users click on malicious links. Whether the link is directly in an email, in a social media post from another app or the browser itself, or even within a PDF like in this example, ConcealBrowse scans every URL and takes appropriate action based on its associated risk. 

In this case, the links would be opened on a throwaway virtual machine in the cloud utilizing our state-of-the-art remote browser isolation engine for further analysis. Once the threat is identified as a phishing attack, ConcealBrowse’s anti-phishing technology takes the additional step of preventing users from providing credentials or other sensitive information.

Furthermore, because the site with the EvilGinx malware was opened in an isolated browser off the user’s machine, its capabilities to intercept session cookies would be rendered useless.

ConcealBrowse provides multiple levels of security, and provides protection even in cases where users’ trust is abused to cause them to take high-risk actions. Constantly working in the background, ConcealBrowse is transparent to end users, and protects them from attackers and from themselves without getting in the way of their work.

If you’d like to learn more about how your organization can easily incorporate this zero-trust web browsing, click here to set up a demo today.