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Automatically stop data breaches and security threats caused by employees on email. Powered by machine learning, Tessian detects anomalies in real-time, integrating seamlessly with your email environment within minutes and starting protection in a day. Provides you with unparalleled visibility into human security risks to remediate threats and ensure compliance.

State of Email Security 2022: Every Company’s Riskiest Channel |  Read the Full Report →

Email DLP, Integrated Cloud Email Security, ATO/BEC
Buyer’s Guide to Integrated Cloud Email Security
by John Filitz Tuesday, March 29th, 2022
The next generation of email security, referred to by Gartner as Integrated Cloud Email Security (ICES) solutions, bring a fresh approach to solving increasingly sophisticated and elusive email security threats. Here’s what to look for when choosing a ICES. Born in the cloud, for the cloud, ICES solutions are seen as an integral additional layer of email security to complement the native email security capabilities present in cloud productivity suites, such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. At last count, according to the latest Gartner Market Guide for Email Security (2021) there were 13 ICES vendors – giving customers a lot of choice to choose from.  Not every ICES vendor however, offers the same completeness of vision, degree of protection, or intelligent capabilities. This short guide will bring insight on some of the key fundamentals that prospective buyers of an ICES solution should be aware of.
Why is there a need for ICES solutions in the first place? Evidence shows that email remains an important and attractive attack vector for threat actors; according to a recent study, it’s responsible for up to 90% of all breaches.  The fact that the vast majority of breaches are attributed to an email compromise, indicates that the current status quo regarding email security is incapable and insufficient at preventing breaches. This was confirmed in a Forrester survey conducted on behalf of Tessian, with over 75% of organizations reporting on average of 20% of email security incidents getting by their existing security controls. Threat actors are using more sophisticated email-based techniques, and attacks are achieving greater success. This is largely due to the commercialization of cybercrime, with Phishing-as-a-Service and Ransomware-as-a-Service offerings becoming more prevalent on the dark web.  In this new world, threat actors develop exploit kits and offer their services for sale. This has unfortunately led to a dramatic increase in the ability of attackers to find targets. And this explains why the cost of damages from cybercrime is expected to rocket to $10.5 trillion by 2025 – representing a +350% increase from 2015. Digital transformation is another key reason too. Cloud adoption was accelerating prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the wake of the pandemic, cloud adoption accelerated even more quickly. This dramatic shift to the cloud has significantly expanded attack surface risk, with employees working from home, and often on personal devices.  This structural shift in computing has also revealed the soft underbelly of legacy cybersecurity solutions built for an on-premise world, including the rule-based and static protection for email offered by Secure Email Gateways (SEGs). And this explains why 58% of cybersecurity leaders are actively looking to displace SEGs for the next generation of email security – with behavioral intelligence and machine learning at the core.
ICES fundamentals  Approach to threat detection and prevention The key differentiator between SEGs and ICES solutions from a threat detection standpoint is that ICES are underpinned by machine learning and utilize a behavioral intelligence approach to threat detection.  The algorithm of an ICES solution develops a historical behavioral map of an organization’s email ecosystem. This historical behavioral map is leveraged along with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) capabilities, to dynamically, and in-real-time, scan and detect any anomalous email behavior. Unlike SEGs, this enables these solutions to detect threats as they arise, in real time.  Deployment architecture There are also important differences in the architecture and configuration of ICES solutions from SEGs. ICES solutions do not sit in-line like SEGs, they also do not require MX re-routing, but rather connect either via connect or API and scan email either pre-delivery or post-delivery – detecting and quarantining any malicious email. 
Degree of security automation  ICES solutions also offer a high degree of email security automation, including triaging of security incidents, which significantly reduces alert fatigue and the SOC burden, ultimately improving security effectiveness.
Key differences between SEGs and ICES SEGs ICES Requires MX records changes, sits in-line, acts as a gateway for all email flow Requires no MX record changes and scans incoming email downstream from the MX record, either pre-delivery via a connector, or post-delivery via an API Designed to detect basic phishing attacks, spam, malware and graymail. No zero day protection Designed to detect advanced social engineering attacks including spear phishing, impersonation attacks, business email compromise (BEC), and account takeover (ATO). Advanced zero day protection Static, rule and policy based protection. No intelligent component to threat detection for inbound or outbound, resulting in high false positives and significant triaging of email security incidents  Behavioral and machine learning detection engine for advanced inbound and outbound threats, resulting in greater detection efficacy and lower false positives i.e. less business interruption and more SOC optimization Limited insider threat detection and no lateral attack detection capability. Once the threat has bypassed the gateway the threat actor as unlimited access to the victims’ data and information systems Advanced insider and lateral attack detection capability, stopping threats where and when they arise Basic email field scanning capability. Relies a threat engine of previously identified threats, and static rules and policies All of the email fields are analyzed using machine learning and compared against a historical mapping of email correspondence. Fields scanned include the sender, recipient, subject line, body, URL and attachments Advanced malicious emails go undetected and reach target inboxes. Some of the less sophisticated malicious emails end up in the spam or junk folder – enabling users to accidentally interact with it Advanced malicious emails are detected and automatically hidden from users’ inboxes. With the pre-delivery option, only email that is determined to be safe is delivered. Post-delivery solutions will in nanoseconds claw-back a suspected email determined to be malicious.  No in-the-moment employee security warnings. Security alerts are retroactive and aimed at SecOps, offering no context to employees or the ability to improve the security culture An in-the-moment security notification banner can be added to an incoming or outgoing email indicating the level of risk of the scanned email and the context. These real-time security notifications lead to improved security culture, by empowering employees to take safe action, in real time Basic DLP capability Some ICES like Tessian have advanced DLP capability
Five market differentiators for ICES solutions Not all ICES solutions however, offer the same degree of completeness in product and protection. It is important that prospective customers of ICES solutions understand and interrogate the following key differentiators during the vendor selection process: 1: Completeness of the product offering and product roadmap Does the solution cover inbound and outbound email protection (i.e. does it prevent email data loss events from occurring?) Does it have pre-built integrations with other cybersecurity tools such as SIEMs? 2: Degree of protection offered During the POV it is important to test the efficacy of the algorithm and determine a true baseline of detection, including the % of false positives. Verify the actual results from the POV against the vendors stated claims. 3: Deployment and management overhead Some vendors have unrealistic claims of “protection within seconds” – understanding the actual amount of FTE resources and time needed for deployment is crucial, as well as the product’s ability to scale. Determining the degree of management FTE required for managing the tool on a day-to-day basis is equally important. 4: UX and reporting capability The overall UX including UI for SecOps teams, and feedback from employees after using the product during the POV is essential. Evidence shows that if the UX is poor, the security effectiveness of the tool will be diminished.  Having the ability to on-demand pull or automate risk metric reporting down to the employee level, for inbound and outbound email, is crucial for cybersecurity and risk compliance leaders. 5: Degree of automation Automation is fast becoming a buzzword in cybersecurity. Here buyers need to be aware of the degree of automation that the ICES solution actually delivers, ranging from threat detection to the triaging of threats, as well as risk reporting.
The final word All it takes is one click on malicious content for a breach to take place. When assessing and selecting an ICES solution, it is important that customers consider the above listed criteria as part of their general vendor assessment criteria.   The considerations on the completeness of the product offering and the degree of protection offered should be weighed carefully.  Finally, it’s the human-side that often never gets mentioned in vendor assessments. The experience interacting with the vendor from the first interaction through to the end of the POV should provide key insight into what the future partnership with the vendor will look and feel like.
About Tessian Tessian is one of the few ICES vendors that offers comprehensive protection for inbound threats like advanced spear phishing attacks, as well as outbound protection, preventing malicious and accidental data loss.  Unlike many of our ICES competitors, we don’t treat our customers as test subjects – our algorithm was developed and fine tuned for 4 years before we went live. Due to this level of product maturity, we boast among the lowest percentage of false positives in our industry. We have among the most attractive UI, delivering a phenomenal UX. This includes advanced and automated cyber risk reporting, making security and risk leaders lives’ easier. We never make claims that we can’t back up. We deploy in seconds and protect within hours. Both the deployment and management overhead are extremely efficient due to product maturity and the degree of automation inherent in our product. Finally it’s worthwhile mentioning we take our customers seriously. Here’s what some of them have to about using our product:
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ATO/BEC
Tessian Defender API Deployment and Enhanced Quarantine Capability
by Robert Slocum Friday, March 25th, 2022
In today’s threat environment of increasing cyber threats and complexity, the email threat vector is only growing in prominence. With Tessian’s behavioral intelligence email security, we provide comprehensive protection from the most advanced email threats of today and tomorrow. This includes advanced anti-phishing protection and email data loss prevention.   We’re excited to announce the release of our new Microsoft 365 API that enables deployment of Tessian’s inbound protection in seconds, and provides unparalleled protection within hours. The seamless Microsoft 365 integration presents an opportunity to consolidate your cybersecurity stack, making it easy to displace your Secure Email Gateway for the next generation of email security, Tessian. You can download our full solution brief here.    The release of the API and new advanced quarantine isolation capabilities mark yet another milestone in Tessian’s growth and solidifies its place as the Integrated Cloud Email Security (ICES) market leader – offering clients a simplified integration, to enable comprehensive email protection against the most advanced inbound threats.  
Taking the effort out of integration Where traditional gateway deployments take months, the Tessian API enables seamless integration for Microsoft 365 clients, whether on premise, in hybrid, or in cloud environments.  Deploy Tessian within seconds and protects within hours.  No configuration is required.    API deployment simplified   The API allows deployment in 3 simple steps:      Enable connection to user mailboxes feature and select the + Defender Protection option    Grant required permission for Tessian to connect    Assign user mailboxes to the Directory Group for Tessian protection
The benefits of API deployment  The benefits of Tessian’s API deployment include:   Low cost of effort integration and management  No complex manual configurations, no MX records configuration or email rerouting needed Low management overhead, enabling security teams to focus on only malicious emails No manual updates required, you’re always running the latest version of our advanced threat protection   Reduced operational risk and enhanced security Elimination of point-of-failure risk and negative performance impacts due to simplified architecture – does not sit-inline Significantly reduced SOC burden and alert fatigue  Significantly reduced false positives, filtering out the noise from the actual threats   Scaled protection on demand Enterprise scalable solution but also accommodates the SMB sector Simply add new users to the Directory Group  Protection extends to all devices, including mobile
New levels of control and enhanced protection    We’re also excited to announce new quarantine features as a part of the Microsoft 365 API for inbound protection providing enhanced levels of control with our advanced quarantine threat isolation capability. The two user-friendly quarantine features are designed to stop threats, without interrupting business, and were built with security admins and employees in mind. The end result: Significantly reduced SOC burden, saving resources, with only malicious emails quarantined.   Admin Quarantine: Depending on the level of enforcement threshold selected by the security admin, emails that have been determined to be malicious by Tessian’s algorithm will automatically be quarantined for further analysis.    Soft Quarantine: Only emails with a lower probability of being malicious are sent to employees. Here, the employee receives a “defanged” copy of the email together with an in-the-moment security warning message. This enables them to decide whether to allow, or to delete the original email. 
How it works Admin Quarantine The Admin Quarantine capability automatically detects malicious emails and quarantines them on arrival. These emails have the highest probability of being malicious. These emails are temporarily removed from the employee’s inbox and assigned to the security admin via an alert notification.  The security admin triages the threat and can decide to release, or to delete the email from either the Tessian portal, or from the alert notification itself.   Soft Quarantine  The Soft Quarantine function detects emails with a lower probability of being malicious and, instead of being sent to the security admin, they’re held in a “Soft Quarantine” or hidden folder in the employee’s email account. These emails are not sent to the “junk folder” in order to prevent accidental interaction by the employee. Tessian sends a “defanged” copy of the email to the employee with an alert notification, alerting them that the flagged email is potentially malicious. The “defanging” of the email effectively neutralizes hyperlinks and removes attachments, thus removing any malicious payloads and is not released until the email is determined not to be malicious.   
In-the-moment security training hardens your security posture in real time   We believe employees are a company’s greatest security asset. With our in-the-moment security awareness notifications, we provide the necessary contextual understanding to prompt safer behavior. Not only is each warning message contextualized to the specific threat, but it also delivers a memorable and individualized security awareness training session.   Our customers consider these warnings an extension of their security awareness training programs, which helps build a more security conscious employee base and improves the security culture, in real time.
Intelligent and comprehensive email security protects against advanced threats   The threatscape is only increasing in sophistication and scope, with threat actors continuously refining attack methods to circumvent rule-based security controls. This helps explain why social-engineering based attacks delivered via email remain the number one threat vector for attack.   Given the high success rate of email-based attacks, it is clear that legacy rule-based email security solutions are no longer capable of keeping employees and data safe. This new reality has driven the need for intelligent email security solutions that provide real time protection and threat defense capability against advanced threats.   The new Tessian API release for Microsoft 365 and quarantine functionality, together with the full capability of Tessian’s security platform provides comprehensive email security for  advanced inbound and outbound threats – giving customers peace of mind that email security is one less challenge they have to deal with.    This is why our customers can’t imagine a world of not having Tessian in their environment.  Want to learn more? See how Tessian prevents ransomware attacks, bolsters DLP, watch a product overview video, or book a demo.
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ATO/BEC
Everything You Need to Know About Tax Day Scams 2022
by Maddie Rosenthal Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022
Only two things are certain in life, death and taxes. As the 2022 Tax Day rolls around, making a payment to the IRS isn’t the only thing you need to be worried about.    These phishing attacks can take many different forms. In the US, these attacks will use the deadline of Monday, 18 April to file your income tax returns as bait. Meanwhile in the UK, these attacks will use your potential tax refund as bait.    But we’re here to help. Here’s what you need to look out for and what to do in case you’re targeted by Tax Day scams. 
 What do Tax Day scams look like?   As is the case with other phishing and spear phishing attacks, bad actors will be impersonating trusted brands and authorities and will be, in some way, motivating you to act.   In this article, we’re exploring Tax Day scams that arrive via email. You may also receive phone calls or text messages from bad actors, claiming that you’re being investigated for tax fraud or have an overdue bill. They may also simply request more information from you, like your name and address, or bank account details. You shouldn’t give any of this information away over the phone. Government organizations will never call you or use recorded messages to demand payment. Now, let’s take a closer look at some real scam examples. Example 1: IRS Impersonation 
What’s wrong with this email? The IRS has said they never contact taxpayers by email, so any correspondence “from” them is illegitimate There is an extra “r” in “internal” in the sender’s email address Email addresses from government agencies will always contain the top-level domain “.gov” There are spelling errors and inconsistencies in the text that you wouldn’t expect from a government agency Example 2: Tax-Preparation Software Impersonation
What’s wrong with this email? While the sender’s email address does contain the company name (Fast Tax), the top level domain name (.as) is unusual The sender is motivating the target to follow the embedded link by claiming their tax return is incomplete Upon hovering over the link, you’ll see the URL is suspicious. Please note, though: A suspicious URL can still take you to a landing page that appears legitimate. These are called malicious websites. Example 3: HMRC Impersonation
What’s wrong with this email? While the Display Name, email template, logos, and language used in the email seem consistent with HMRC, the sender’s email address contains the top-level domain “.net” instead of “.gov.uk” Upon hovering over the link, you’ll see the URL is suspicious Example 4: Client Impersonation
What’s wrong with this email? Unfortunately, in this case, there are no obvious giveaways that this is a phishing scam. However, if Joe, the tax accountant in this scenario, knew he hadn’t met or interacted with a woman named Karen Belmont, that could be a warning sign Individuals and organizations should always be wary of attachments and should have anti-malware and/or virus protection in place This examples demonstrates the importance of having policies in place to verify clients beyond email. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with being extra cautious this time of year. Example 5: CEO Impersonation
What’s wrong with this email? The the sender’s email address (@supplier-xyz.com) is inconsistent with the recipient’s email address (@supplierxyz.com) The attacker is impersonating the CEO, hoping that the target will be less likely to question the request; this is a common social engineering tactic  The attacker is using urgency both in the subject line and the email copy to motivate the target to act quickly Because this is a zero-payload attack (an attack that doesn’t rely on a link or attachment to carry malware), anti-malware or anti-virus software wouldn’t detect the scam
Who will be targeted by Tax Day scams?    From the examples above, you can see that cybercriminals will target a range of people with their Tax Day scams. Taxpayers, tax professionals, and businesses are all susceptible and savvy hackers will use different tactics for each. Here’s what you should look out for.   Taxpayers  Attackers will be impersonating trusted government agencies like the IRS and HMRC and third-parties like tax professionals and tax software vendors  Attackers will use coercive language and the threat of missed deadlines or promises of refunds to motivate their targets to act  Many phishing emails contain a payload; this could be in the form of a malicious link or attachment   Tax Professionals  Attackers will be impersonating either existing clients/customers or prospects. In either case, they’ll be pretending they need help with their tax return or tax refund  Attackers will use the lure of new business or the threat of losing a customer to motivate their targets to act  Many phishing emails contain a payload; this could be in the form of a malicious link or attachment.  Businesses  Attackers will be impersonating CEOs, HR representatives, Finance Directors, or other individuals or agencies who need access to sensitive tax information  Attackers are strategic in their impersonations of people in positions of power; people are less likely to question their superiors.   
What do I do if I’m targeted by a Tax Day scam? While it’s true that attackers use different tactics and capitalize on different moments in time to trick their targets, individuals and businesses should always follow the same guidelines if they think they’ve received a phishing email.    First and foremost, always, always, always check the sender. Confirm that the domain is legitimate and that the Display Name matches the email address. Be wary of any emails that aren’t from a “.gov” address.  If anything seems unusual, do not follow or click links or download attachments  Check for spelling errors or formatting issues. Be scrupulous! If anything feels off, proceed cautiously. (See below.  If the email appears to come from an individual you know and trust, like a colleague, customer, or client, reach out to the individual directly by phone, text or a separate email thread  If you’re an employee who’s been targeted, contact your line manager and/or IT team. Management should, in turn, warn the larger organization  The best way to avoid falling victim to one of these scams is to simply not provide any personal information until you verify with 100% certainty that you’re communicating with a genuine agency, organization, or agent. Visit the organization’s website via Google or your preferred search engine, find a support number, and ask them to confirm the request for information is valid.
More resources As a security start-up, we’re committed to helping you stay safe. If you’re looking for more information on Tax Day scams, consult the following government websites. Advice from the IRS Advice from HMRC Looking for more advice about scams? Sign-up to our newsletter below to get articles just like this, straight to your inbox. 
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ATO/BEC
What is Email Impersonation? Everything You Need to Know
Wednesday, March 16th, 2022
Email impersonation might not be the most sophisticated phishing method, but it’s simple, it’s widespread, and it can be devastating. Here’s why…     Email impersonation vs. email spoofing vs. account takeover   First, we need to describe “email impersonation” and distinguish it from some closely-related concepts.   Email impersonation: The attacker sets up an email address that looks like a legitimate email address (e.g. bill.gates@micr0soft.com – note the zero instead of an o in the domain name). Email spoofing: A technical process where the attacker modifies an email’s headers so the receiving email client displays a false email address (the sender’s email address is “fraudster@cybercrime.com,” but the recipient sees “billgates@microsoft.com” in their inbox) Account takeover: The attacker gains access to another person’s account (using hacking or stolen credentials) and uses it to send phishing emails.   Email spoofing and account takeover require some technical ability (or, at least, access to the dark web). With email impersonation, though, the attacker just needs to secure a domain that looks like it could belong to a legitimate business.   This is easy (and cheap!) with domain registrars like GoDaddy. We explore different types of impersonation techniques below.   Phishing methods that use email impersonation   Cybercriminals can use email impersonation to facilitate any type of email-based phishing attack. There are some types of phishing in which email impersonation is particularly common, including:   Business Email Compromise (BEC) — Impersonating a business CEO fraud — Impersonating a company executive and targeting one of their employees Whaling — Targeting a company executive   These are all among the more sophisticated and targeted types of phishing attacks. These types of attacks must employ email impersonation, email spoofing, or account takeover to be successful.   Types of email impersonation   Now we’ll look at the various ways a cybercriminal can impersonate an email address. To understand these, you’ll need to know about the different parts of an email address:
Each of these elements of an email address is relevant to a different type of email impersonation.   Root domain-based email impersonation   A company’s root domain is usually the most distinctive part of its email address. It’s the part immediately before the top-level domain (e.g. “.com”) — the “Amazon” in “info@amazon.com”.   Root domain impersonation involves creating a root domain using replacement characters, so it looks like an email has arrived from a legitimate company. Here’s an example:
In this root domain impersonation, the attacker has replaced the “l” in “external” and “supplier” with a “1”. At first glance, the recipient might not notice this, and they might treat the email as though it has come from “External Supplier.”   Top-level domain-based email impersonation   The top-level domain is the part after the root domain: e.g., “.com”, “.jp”, or “.net”. The top-level domain usually denotes a country or a type of organization. For example:   .com — Commercial organizations .uk — Internet country code for the UK .gov — US government agency   Sometimes, a second-level domain accompanies a top-level domain:   .co.uk — Commercial organization from the UK .ac.jp — Higher education institution from Japan .waw.pl — Organization from Warsaw, Poland   Using top-level domain impersonation, a cybercriminal can create an authentic-looking email address that the recipient might assume belongs to a legitimate organization (if they even notice it).   Here’s an example:
Here we have “externalsupplier.io” imitating “externalsupplier.com”. The top-level domain “.io” is actually registered to British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), but Google recognizes it as “generic” because many non-BIOT organizations use it.   Subdomain-based email impersonation   A subdomain appears after the “@” sign, but before the root domain. For example, in “info@mail.amazon.com”, the subdomain is “mail”. Most email addresses don’t have a subdomain.   An attacker can use subdomains to impersonate a legitimate company in two main ways:   Using a company’s name as a subdomain to the attacker’s domain. For example, in “info@amazon.mailerinfo.com”, “amazon” is the subdomain and “mailerinfo” is the domain. Splitting a company’s name across a subdomain and domain.   Here’s an example of the second type of subdomain impersonation:
Display name impersonation   A display name is how an email client shows a sender’s name. You can choose your display name when you sign up for an email account. We explore display name impersonation in more detail in this article: How to Impersonate a Display Name.   Display name impersonation exploits a bad habit of mobile email clients. On mobile, common email clients like Outlook and Gmail only display a sender’s display name by default. They don’t display the sender’s email address.    So, even an email address like “cybercriminal@phishing.com” might show as “Amazon Customer Services” in your mobile email client — if that’s the display name that the attacker selected when setting up the account.   But this isn’t a mobile-only problem. According to new research, just 54% of employees even look at the email address of a sender before responding or actioning a request. This is good news for attackers, and bad news for businesses.      Username impersonation   The username is the part of the email address that appears before the “@” symbol. For example, in “bill.gates@microsoft.com”, the username is “bill.gates”.   Username impersonation is the least sophisticated form of email impersonation, but it can still work on an unsuspecting target. This technique is sometimes called “freemail impersonation,” because scammers can register false usernames with Gmail or Yahoo.    With this technique, they can create accounts that look like they could belong to your CEO, CFO, or another trusted person in your network.  Here’s an example:
More resources on email impersonation   Now you know the basic techniques behind email impersonation, read our articles on preventing email impersonation, CEO fraud, and Business Email Compromise to find out how to protect your business from these cyberattacks.   You can also learn how Tessian detects and prevents advanced impersonation attacks by reading our customer stories or booking a demo. Not quite ready for that? Sign-up for our newsletter below instead. You’ll be the first to know about new research and events and get helpful checklists and how-to guides straight to your inbox.
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ATO/BEC
Why Enterprises Are Replacing Their SEGs With Microsoft and Tessian
by John Filitz Monday, March 14th, 2022
The advancing sophistication of cybersecurity threat campaigns have brought legacy cybersecurity tools into sharp focus. Built for an on-premise world, these manual, rule-based approaches to cybersecurity are unable to ward off adaptive and increasingly intelligent attack methods.   On the other side of the coin are security leaders who are overwhelmed and overworked. This is largely due to the proliferation of threats, juxtaposed against managing their IT environments from a tooling and staff resource perspective.    Tool sprawl is reaching excessive levels that are simply impossible to manage. The average enterprise now has in excess of 45 cybersecurity tools deployed. Research shows excessive tools deployed leads to a decline of security effectiveness.    The bottom line: Increasing complexity warrants tool rationalization.    Keep reading to learn:   Why Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) have become redundant The powerful capabilities (and shortcomings) of Microsoft  The benefits of replacing your SEG with Tessian + Microsoft
SEG redundancy   The effectiveness of legacy Secure Email Gateway (SEG) solutions is starting to receive due attention as email related breaches continue to snowball. Depending on the statistic cited, the email threat vector accounts for anywhere between 80-96% of cybersecurity attacks.   Replacing SEGs represents a high return, low risk optimization opportunity, due to declining security effectiveness and the high degree of redundancy in the enterprise.     SEG security effectiveness is declining for two reasons:    The majority of enterprises have adopted cloud hosted productivity suites such as Microsoft 365, which natively provide SEG capabilities including malware, phishing and URL protection.  SEGs rely on static, rule-based approaches that are ineffective in safeguarding  email users and data from advanced threats.    Once a threat actor is able to bypass the SEG, they effectively have unmitigated access to carry out their threat campaign. This can (and often does) include Account Takeover (ATO), deploying exploit kits or more damagingly, delivering ransomware. And little protection is offered against insider threats – a growing concern.  
The powerful capabilities (and shortcomings) of Microsoft    Microsoft 365, which includes Exchange Online Protection (EOP) and Microsoft 365 Defender, provides a reasonable degree of email security that effectively makes the legacy SEG redundant.   M365 on E5 licensing provides the following capabilities:   Anti-malware protection Anti-phishing protection Anti-spam protection Insider risk management  Protection from malicious URLs and files in email and Office documents (Safe Links and Safe Attachments) Message encryption via issued PKI Audit logging Quarantine Exchange archiving
Microsoft alone, however, does not guarantee against advanced email threats. Significant gaps remain in Microsoft’s ability to protect against advanced social engineering campaigns that can result in business email  compromise (BEC), ATO, or zero day exploitation. And this is why these shortcomings are also reflected in Microsoft’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) exclusions, for example excluding guarantees against zero day exploits and phishing in non-English languages.    Microsoft + Tessian = Comprehensive security   This is where a next-gen behavioral cybersecurity solution like Tessian comes into play, providing advanced automated email threat detection and prevention capability.   With Tessian, no mail exchange (MX) records need to be changed. Tessian is able to construct a historical user email pattern map of all email behavior in the organization. The best-in-class algorithm is then able to detect and prevent threats that Microsoft or SEGs have failed to detect within 5 days of deployment.    This dynamic protection improves with each threat that is prevented, and unlike the in-line static nature of SEGs, it ensures 24/7 real time protection against all attack vectors, including insider threats. That is why the leading enterprises are opting for displacing their legacy SEG and augmenting Microsoft’s native security capabilities with Tessian.   
Tessian Defender’s capabilities include:   Advanced Spear Phishing Protection Advanced Attachment and URL Protection   Internal Impersonation & CEO Fraud Advanced Spoof Detection Counterparty & Vendor Impersonation  Brand Impersonation External Account Takeover Invoice FraudBulk Remediation Automated Quarantine  Threat Intelligence
No black box threat visibility and intelligent risk mitigation   Beyond the cost and resource optimization realized by removing SEGs, Tessian clients see significant efficiency gains in the SOC due to the high degree of automating triage and the enablement of a distilled view on the threats that matter  –  finding that needle in the haystack, in real time and in context.    For example, with one-click, SOC analysts can bulk remediate high volume phishing campaigns (aka burst attacks) that are targeting the organization as they happen. Suspicious emails are also automatically quarantined, with threat remediation context provided.    The platform provides a single pane of glass, giving security and risk leaders visibility of how cybersecurity risk is trending in their organization and the types of threats thwarted, down to individual employee-level risk scoring.
Context aware security awareness training  The context-aware security capability of Tessian extends to providing in-the-moment security awareness training to employees. The real-time security notifications flag suspicious and malicious emails received, offer a clear explanation, and provide education to employees in real time. Most enterprises experience a 30% click through rate (CTR) on simulated phishing exercises – including our clients prior to deployment. Tessian clients see simulated phishing exercises returning a less than 5% CTR after deployment – illustrating the effectiveness of Tessian’s security awareness training.
Stopping threats, reducing complexity    Tessian enables security teams to focus on mission critical tasks rather than manually and retroactively triaging already occurred security events. Legacy email security approaches relying on SEGs simply no longer have a place in an increasingly crowded cybersecurity stack. By leveraging Microsoft 365’s native capability together with Tessian, presents an opportunity for security leaders to improve security while reducing complexity.
This is why according to a Tessian commissioned Forrester study, 58% of cybersecurity leaders are reevaluating legacy email security tools and approaches, and why 56% will be investing in behavioral email security solutions with automated detection capabilities.
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Integrated Cloud Email Security, ATO/BEC
Nation-States – License to Hack?
by Andrew Webb Thursday, March 10th, 2022
Traditionally, security leaders view of  nation-state attacks has been ‘as long as you’re not someone like BAE systems or a Government, you’re fine’ But in the last three years nation-state attacks doubled in number to over 200… and we’ve yet to see the full cyber impact of the war in Ukraine. Consequently, nation-state attacks are something all security leaders should be aware of and understand. Here’s what you need to know.
How a nation-state attack differs from a regular cyber attack    Nation-state attacks are typically defined as APTs, or advanced persistent threats – a term first defined in 2005. They are referred to as advanced because they have access to exploits and techniques that are more professional, more effective, and more expensive than the average criminal actors.   Nation-state attackers can have teams full of people that can work a 24-hour shift and handoff every 8 hours. There’s also the question of the duration of an attack. APTs play the long-game, and can sometimes take 18 to 24 months before any compromise takes place. The bottom line: nation-state hackers have the resources to wait for the perfect moment to strike.
What are the aims of a nation-state APT attack? With the nearly unlimited money and resources of a nation-state , nation-state attackers can try every technique and tactic available until they eventually accomplish their goal. And those goals are nearly always political rather than purely criminal. APT attacks generally aim to do one of the following:    Exfiltrate data containing military secrets or intellectual property Conduct propaganda or disinformation campaigns Compromised sensitive information for further attacks or identity theft sabotage of critical organizational infrastructures  Russia blurs this line in that they use criminal activity in furtherance of political goals, and have been for years. They also have an APT set whose objective is essentially disruption and discord, so that security teams and government agencies don’t know where to place the defense resources.
Which businesses are most at risk from a nation-state attack?  A sector all threat actor groups are interested in is Cleared Defense Contractors (CDCs). CDCs are businesses granted clearance by the US Department of Defense to access, receive, or store classified information when bidding for a contract or other supporting activities.   One of the first APT attacks against CDCs was Titan Rain in 2003. Suspected Chinese hackers gained access to the computer networks companies such as Lockheed Martin, Sandia National Laboratories, Redstone Arsenal, and NASA, as well as UK Government departments and companies. What’s more, it’s believed that they were inside the network for over three years.  Infrastructure companies are also popular targets. US infrastructure companies such as Colonial Pipeline have been getting hit more and more frequently, and Ukraine suffered a power grid outage in 2015. And banks – especially national banks – are under continual attack, and in light of the recent removal of Russia from the SWIFT payment system, western banks are presumed to be under increased threat in retaliation.
Softer secondary targets   Although traditionally, targets with connections to the military bore the brunt of APTs, there are signs that this is spreading to other industries. In 2021 Microsoft shared detailed information regarding a “state-sponsored threat actor” based in China that targeted a wide range of entities in the U.S. — including law firms. The highly sophisticated cyber-attack used previously unknown exploits to infiltrate Microsoft Exchange Server software, so it’s reasonable to assume that if you have tangential connections to a political target of one of these countries, then you could be at risk.
As KC Busch, Tessian’s Head of Security Engineering & Operations explains “APTs might need to spend a million dollars to compromise their direct target. But if they can find a law firm connected with that target that doesn’t encrypt outbound comms or has adequate email protection, then they’re going to go for the law firm rather than the million-dollar target”   This underscores the importance of not just your own cybersecurity posture, but that of every organization in your network or supply chain. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.. 
The phases of an APT attack   APT attacks come in three phases.    First, there’s network infiltration, typically achieved through compromised credentials. If compromised credentials aren’t an option, or defenses are particularly robust, nation-state attackers might use a zero-day attack. Countries can have teams that will research and write their own zero-days, but more commonly, they will buy them from a gray market of third-party companies that aggregate exploits and sell them without much ethical thought of how they’re used.    This murky world of zero-day exploits and the people that broker them to Governments and security agencies was chronicled by Former New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth in her recent book, ‘This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends’. Perlorth’s book highlights how for decades, US government agents paid thousands, and later millions of dollars to hackers willing to sell zero-days, and how they lost control of the market. The result is that zero-days are in the hands of hostile nations, who have money to purchase them and a need to deploy them as they’re becoming rarer and more expensive.    The second phase is the expansion of the attack to spread to all parts of the network or system. As we’ve mentioned, APT attacks are not hit-and-run. With time on their side, hackers can wait patiently in the network before gaining full access and control of it.   Thirdly, there’s the attack itself. This could involve collecting data and exfiltrating it, or disrupting critical infrastructure systems. Furthermore, several APT attacks have started with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack which acts as a smokescreen as data that’s been amassed over what could be months or years is exfiltrated. 
Notable nation-state attacks The most sophisticated: Stuxnet is widely believed to have been developed by the USA and Israel for use against Iran’s uranium enrichment program. It disrupted the plant’s uranium centrifuges by varying their spin rate, but not enough to cause them to shut down. Furthermore, false data was displayed back to the controller, so employees thought everything was business as usual.. Designed to be delivered by an infected USB stick, it could cross the air gap that protected the plant. However, it got out into the wild when an engineer took his infected laptop home from the plant, and connected it to the internet.   The biggest: 2015’s Anthem breach (China was reported to be behind it) saw the sensitive personal data of approximately 78.8 million Americans fall into the wrong hands. Brian Benczkowski, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice Criminal Division, called the Anthem hack “one of the worst data breaches in history.”    The data wasn’t ransomed back to the company, and the reasons for the attack remain unclear. By 2019 the DOJ unsealed an indictment charging two Chinese nationals for the attack, but an indication of the alleged hackers’ motives or affiliation was noticeably absent. Current thinking is that it will be used for identity theft or to identify interesting individuals or Government employees for further exploitation and attack. Only nation-states have the resources to process that much intel and find the 100 or so people whose credentials can be further targeted. As for Anthem, the breach cost them over $40 millionto settle the resulting claims, and clear up the mess. 
What’s the future of nation-state attacks?    The Anthem breach and others led to a very loose set of guidelines on what is, and what is not, acceptable. This was hammered out between former President Obama and President Xi Jinpingof China in 2015, but none of this has the force of law like the Geneva Convention. And with an actor like Russia currently in a highly aggressive position, it’s reasonable to expect an escalation until desired political goals are achieved.  Attack types are likely to evolve, too. One example: wipers.. Unlike ransomware, where you pay the money and (hopefully) get your data back, a wiper will display the message as it’s erasing all your data. They’re a class of malware that have a narrowly targeted use, but if someone decided to let those loose, the damage could be astronomical. And worryingly, they’ve already been spotted in Ukraine.
How to protect your organization from nation-state attacks The federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) posted a bulletin, titled “Shields Up,” which includes an evolving overview of the current cyber threat environment and specific steps that organizations, corporate leaders, and CEOs can take to bolster their cyber defenses. We have more on those recommendations, as well as how to foster a risk-aware culture, in this blog post. Enacting these defenses and upskilling your team is the best way to protect your organization from Nation-state attacks.   For the latest cybersecurity news and articles, sign up for our newsletter, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn
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ATO/BEC
18 Examples of Ransomware Attacks
Friday, March 4th, 2022
The ransomware crisis is getting out of control. With recent attacks on critical infrastructure, supply chain IT companies, and hospitals, the world is waking up to how serious this type of cyberattack can be.   IT leaders understand that ransomware is preventable—and they know how to protect against it. But still, increasingly many businesses are finding their computers locked, their files encrypted, or their customers’ personal data stolen.   From the widespread chaos caused by2017’s WannaCry attack to the recent REvil supply chain infection affecting up to 1,500 organizations—these 12 ransomware examples will help you understand what you’re up against.   Want to learn more about what ransomware is and how it’s delivered? Check out this article instead. 
Nvidia attempts “hack-back” after ransomware gang steals source code   After Nvidia fell victim to ransomware in late February 2022, the semiconductor giant didn’t take the attack lying down. Instead, Nvidia installed ransomware on the perpetrator’s own machines—but appeared not to solve its problem by doing so.   Nvidia was targeted by the ransomware group known as Lapus$, which stole the company’s source code, including a proprietary hash rate limiter that reduces the usefulness of Nvidia’s chips for cryptocurrency mining.   In an attempt to safeguard its intellectual property, Nvidia hired security experts to locate the attackers’ infrastructure and target it with a retaliatory ransomware strike.   While the revenge attack succeeded in infecting Lapus$’ computers—an act which, perhaps ironically, led the group to label Nvidia “criminals”—-Nvidia failed to retrieve its data as the group had backed it up.   In exchange for keeping Nvidia’s data private, Lapus$ demanded the company publish its GPU drivers as open source—in addition to paying a cryptocurrency ransom, of course.   Oil pipeline ransomware attack forces supply re-route   The BlackCat ransomware group launched a ransomware attack affecting 233 German gas stations on Jan. 29, 2022, causing disruption that forced oil company Shell to re-route supplies to different depots.   The attack is believed to have leveraged vulnerabilities in two software applications, Microsoft Exchange and Zoho AdShelf Service Plus1, enabling the attackers to exfiltrate “business secrets and intellectual property,” according to the German intelligence services.   The agency also said it feared the attackers might have infiltrated “the networks of customers or service providers” as part of the attack. In addition to rerouting supplies to avoid affected fuel depots, Shell said it may have to run some previously automated processes manually.   The attack has been attributed to BlackCat, a cybercrime group that mainly targets US organizations but has extended its operations into Europe.
Flights disrupted after ransomware hits Swiss airport   Airport operator Swissport was hit by a ransomware attack on Feb 3, 2022, resulting in grounded planes and flight delays at Zurich international airport.   The attack on Swissport—which provides air cargo operations and ground services—resulted in the delay of 22 flights. Swissport managed to contain the ransomware threat relatively quickly and most critical systems appear to have remained unaffected.   But because the attack came a week after the series of ransomware attacks on European oil services (detailed above), researchers suspect that the Swissport attack may have been part of a coordinated effort to destabilize European infrastructure.     Attack on Puma exposes nearly half of workforce’s personal information   Sportswear giant Puma lost control of around half of its employees’ personal information in February 2022, after ransomware actors hit the company’s cloud provider, Kronos Private Cloud (KPC).   Puma was forced to provide notification of the data breach to the affected employees and to Attorney General offices in multiple states. News website Republic World reported that the breach lead to the theft of data about 6,632 people.   Puma said no customer data had been leaked as a result of the attack, but that it had to resort to using “pencil and paper” to carry out certain business operations.
Ransomware strike on UK snack company threatens nation’s chips and nuts supply   A ransomware attack on UK food company KP Snacks made headlines in February 2022 after reports that it could lead to shortages of some of the nation’s favorite crisps (potato chips) and roasted nuts.   Following the incident, the snack firm wrote to stores warning them to expect significant disruption to supplies with deliveries expected to be delayed and cancelled until “the end of March at the earliest.” The company said it could not “safely process orders” until it had contained the attack.   News website Bleeping Computer reported that Cybercrime group Conti featured KP Snacks on its “data leak page,” showing examples of “credit card statements, birth certificates, spreadsheets with employee addresses and phone numbers, confidential agreements, and other sensitive documents” that the group had allegedly stolen from the company.     Ransomware attacks on Ukraine deemed a “decoy” for other cyber threats   Ukraine was hit by a variety of cyberattacks in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of the country in February 2022, including massive distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS), data wiper and ransomware attacks.   Wiper attacks hit Ukranian (and seemingly Lithuanian) servers on the morning of February 24, shortly before the Russian military launched an all-out war on the country. The wiper malware makes any device it infects unusable.   Researchers at Symantec said some ransomware attacks were also detected—but it’s possible that ransomware was used as a “decoy or distraction” from these other attacks.   In this case, ransomware’s disruptive nature made it the perfect distraction from the other cyberattacks that preceded Russia’s invasion.   Ransomware on candy manufacturer spoils Halloween   In October 2021, Ferrara—a candy manufacturer responsible for culinary delights such as SweeTarts, Nerds, Redhots, and Pixy Stix—announced a ransomware attack that could cause delays to production and affect Halloween deliveries.   The confectioner declined to reveal the extent of the damage caused by the attack but said it appreciated its customers’ “patience and understanding.”   Viewed in light of the hospitals, gas pipelines, and border agencies that have been hit by ransomware over the past year, Ferrara’s plight might seem insignificant—unless, perhaps, if America’s trick-or-treaters start coming home with empty baskets.
Sinclair Broadcast Group: Ransomware shuts down TV stations   US TV company Sinclair Broadcast Group was hit with ransomware in October 2021. The company operates over 600 channels, and this ransomware attack reportedly caused chaos within Sinclair’s internal and external operations.   The attack broke Sinclair’s email and phone systems and left the company unable to air certain ads and TV shows. Sinclair’s share price also dropped 3% on the day it announced the attack.   Several days after the incident, the company was still reportedly in disarray, with an anonymous source inside the company telling Vice that the attacker had “done a very good job… either by accident or by design.”   That last part is important. Once ransomware starts spreading, it takes on a life of its own—and it can quickly get out of control, causing more damage than even the attackers might have anticipated.   Vice’s source also condemned Sinclair’s alleged lack of preparedness for the incident, reportedly asking of their bosses: “Did you not have a plan? Did you not think this was a possibility? (…) In 2021, how could you not have a plan?”     Olympus hit by ransomware twice in five weeks   Japanese medical tech firm Olympus was hit hard by ransomware on September 8, 2021. The attackers encrypted Olympus’ network, disrupting the company’s EMEA operations. But just as the med-tech firm was recovering, it was attacked again on October 10, 2021—just one month after the first incident. This time, the attack impacted Olympus’ operations in the Americas.   We don’t know much about these two incidents, except that they are suspected to have been carried out by the Evil Corp ransomware gang. The attackers also reportedly used “Macaw Locker”—a new communications tool designed to evade US sanctions rules that had previously prevented victims from entering into negotiations with the group.   Ransomware actors have been known to strike the same victims multiple times—either because they have found a vulnerability they can exploit or because they know that the target is likely to pay up.     Weir Group faces $55m lost profits following ransomware attack   Scottish multinational engineering company Weir Group used its Q3 trading update to announce that it had been hit by ransomware—and that it expected profits to shrink by around 40 million GBP (55 million USD) as a result.   According to Weir Group’s statement, the incident—which occurred in early September 2021—forced the company to shut down its IT systems, enterprise resource planning operations, and engineering applications. Weir Group also said it expected the impact of the attack to continue into Q4 2021.   As a result of the ransomware incident, Weir Group said it had experienced 5 million GBP (6.8 million USD) in direct losses. But the company also said that the disruption indirectly caused by the incident was likely to cost nearly ten times that amount.   A $55 million loss would be a substantial blow for a company that expects its yearly profits to be around $316 million to $336 million—and a stark reminder of how destructive ransomware can be.      
Attack on Italian government agency exposes celebrities’ personal data   Ransomware isn’t just a cybersecurity threat—it can harm people’s privacy, too. In October 2021, an Italian public body responsible for safeguarding intellectual property rights—the Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori (SIAE)—lost over 60 GB of data to the Everest ransomware group.   BleepingComputer later found this data—which reportedly included “national ID and driver’s license scans and documents relevant to contract agreements between SIAE and its members”—publicly available on Everest’s “extortion portal.”   The group appears to be selling the data for $500,000 after the SIAE failed to pay its ransom—a reminder that ransomware gangs will follow through on their threats. Italy’s data protection authority, the Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali (GPDP), is investigating the matter.     2017 WannaCry attack: The world’s first taste of how bad ransomware can get   Let’s start with an attack from several years ago—before “ransomware” was a household name—that shocked the world into taking cybersecurity more seriously.   The incident started in May 2017, when hackers infected a computer with the WannaCry ransomware. Within a day, users of over 230,000 computers worldwide found that their files had been encrypted—and that they could only retrieve their data by making a Bitcoin payment to the attackers.   How could WannaCry infect so many computers?   The original infection was initially believed to have resulted from a phishing email, but researchers later concluded that the ransomware took hold via a vulnerable SMB port.   From there, the infection spread to other computers that had not downloaded a recent Microsoft security update—the hackers used a tool called EternalBlue (developed by the U.S. National Security Agency) to exploit a zero-day vulnerability in Windows.   Wannacry caused chaos across multiple sectors in more than 150 countries. The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) was particularly badly affected—hospitals even had to cancel operations due to the disarray caused by the attack.   The actual ransom payments—between $300-$600 each—added up to a meager $130,634. But estimates of the overall costs associated with the attack range between hundreds of millions and billions of dollars.     Colonial Pipeline attack: ransomware affects critical infrastructure   On May 6, 2021, Ransomware gang Darkside hit the Colonial Pipeline Company, a utilities firm that operates the largest refined oil pipeline in the U.S., causing chaos at gas stations across the country and netting millions of dollars in the process.   Security analysts suspect that Darkside gained access to Colonial’s systems via a single compromised password—possibly after purchasing it via the dark web.   The cybercriminals targeted Colonial Pipeline’s computer systems, stealing nearly 100 gigabytes of data and impacting the company’s billing operations—but not the actual technology enabling the flow of oil through the pipeline.   Nonetheless, the company halted oil supplies throughout the duration of the attack, sparking fuel shortages and panic-buying throughout parts of the southern U.S. and prompting the Biden administration to issue a state of emergency.   Colonial Pipeline paid the Bitcoin ransom of around $4.4 million. But the more significant impact was on wider society. Ransomware had affected the supply and cost of gas—the hackers had broken through to people’s everyday experiences.
Fake invoice leads to Ryuk ransomware infection   Wire transfer phishing—where cybercriminals commit online fraud using a fake invoice and a compromised email account—costs businesses billions each year. But in this mid-2020 case, a fake invoice led not to a fraudulent wire transfer but to a ransomware infection.   An employee at a food and drink manufacturer opened a malicious Microsoft Word file attachment to an email, unleashing the Emotet and Trickbot malware onto their computer.   The malware created a backdoor into the organization’s systems, allowing the cybercriminals to gain access and deploy the Ryuk ransomware.   The company declined to pay the ransom in this case—but still incurred substantial costs. Over half of the organization’s systems were unusable for 48 hours, and the firm had to contract security experts to restore access.   Kaseya supply chain attack impacts 1,500 companies   The biggest ransomware attack on record occurred on July 2, 2021, when the REvil gang hit software company Kaseya. Organizations using Kaseya’s IT management software downloaded a malicious update that infected their computers with ransomware.   Victims received a ransom note informing them that their files had been encrypted. The note said users could retrieve their files by purchasing the cybercriminals’ $45,000 decryption software, payable in cryptocurrency.   The attack directly affected at least 60 firms—and it had downstream consequences for at least 1,500 companies. Even a Swedish supermarket chain was forced to close its doors after its payment processing equipment malfunctioned due to the attack.   A few days after the attack, a post on the cybercrime gang’s dark web page promoted a universal decryptor that could unscramble all data impacted by the attack—for the bargain price of $70 million.   The Kaseya ransomware attack was reminiscent of the notorious 2020 Solarwinds attack, which. while it did not involve ransomware, exposed the vulnerability of supply chains.   UK health service warns of Avaddon phishing attacks   In April 2021, the digital arm of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) put out a warning about Avaddon ransomware, a type of ransomware that can “both steal and encrypt files” in “double extortion attacks.”   Avaddon typically arrives via a phishing email. The email contains a .jpeg or .zip file which acts as a downloader for the ransomware. In some cases, the application will terminate itself if it detects that you’re using a Russian keyboard layout. As mentioned, Avaddon not only encrypts your files—it can also steal and publicly leak them if you fail to pay the ransom.   What makes this double extortion method particularly harmful? Getting your important files encrypted is bad enough. You lose vital data and might need to cease operations until the situation is resolved.   But having your files stolen as well puts you at a heightened risk of penalties from regulators for failing to protect people’s personal data.   Stolen credentials lead to $4.4 million DarkSide attack   The North American division of chemicals distributor Brenntag lost around 150 gigabytes of company data in May 2021, when the DarkSide ransomware gang deployed ransomware on the company’s systems.   The cybercriminals reportedly demanded $7.5 million ransom, which the chemicals company managed to negotiate down to $4.4 million—a sum it reportedly paid DarkSide on May 14 to prevent the compromised data from being published.   So how did DarkSide get access to Brenntag’s systems? It appears the cybercrime gang (or one of its affiliates) purchased some of Brenntag’s user credentials on the dark web.   Credentials are a prime target for cybercriminals and are one of the data types most commonly compromised in phishing campaigns. For more information, see What is Credential Phishing?     COVID-19 testing delayed after Irish hospitals hit by ransomware   When Irish hospitals were attacked by a ransomware gang in May 2021, patient data was put at risk, appointments were cancelled, COVID-19 testing was delayed—and the world saw once again how far cybercriminals were willing to go to make money.   The hackers are believed to have targeted a zero-day vulnerability in a virtual private network (VPN) operated by the Irish Health Service Executive. The Russian cybercrime group responsible for the attack, known as Wizard Spider, reportedly demanded a $19,999,000 ransom.   After the Irish prime minister publicly declared that the country would not be paying the ransom, the healthcare system was forced to resort to keeping records on paper until the situation was resolved.
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Threat Intel, ATO/BEC
Analysis of a Microsoft Credential Phishing Attack
by Charles Brook Friday, February 25th, 2022
Credential harvesting via phishing remains a significant threat to organizations. In early February 2022, we detected a credential harvesting campaign leveraging a fake Microsoft Outlook login page. Although Secure Email Gateways (SEGS) have URL rewriting protection capability, these types of phishing efforts typically go undetected through the usage of obfuscation techniques such as using superscript tags hiding the malicious code.
Summary of the attack   An email impersonating Microsoft was sent using Amazon Simple Email Service targeting multiple individuals at a specific organization. The email informed recipients their password was due to expire and they needed to follow a link to reset it.   The link in the email followed multiple redirects before landing on a credential phishing site impersonating the Microsoft Outlook login page. Analysis of this attack reveals it to be related to known phishing as a service (PhaaS) site where anyone can purchase tools and services for phishing.   Email Content   Below is a screenshot of the malicious email with a malicious link to reset the password. Note the usage of language (albeit with typos) expressing urgency around changing the end user’s password.
The threat actor sent the target recipients a request to change their Microsoft password that included a malicious link that would redirect to a credential harvesting website. Tailored to specific targets, the emails also appeared to be sent from an AWS Apps server using the Amazon Simple Email Service and passed security checks including SPF, DKIM and DMARC, meaning it is unlikely to be flagged as malicious.    Given the email appears to have been sent via Amazon SES, there is a chance the attacker may have compromised an AWS account. Alternatively they could have registered an account for the sole purpose of sending these emails and passing security checks since Amazon will be seen as a reputable sender.
Email body   When viewed from a mailreader these emails are fairly easy for the trained eye to spot. The main indicators being the grammatical errors that are common amongst phishing emails, as well as the suspicious link clickable from the button.   But underneath the message displayed was further evidence of the attacker going to great lengths through common phishing obfuscation techniques to make these emails difficult to detect.   The email body was base64 encoded which is not that uncommon for emails but still a technique attackers use to obfuscate the content of an email. Decoding this revealed the HTML used to construct the email. When focusing on the email body we find the attacker has added a series of HTML elements distributed randomly between the letters in the message.
Specifically the attacker has used superscript HTML tags to obfuscate the email body against common email security tools like SEGs.   <sup style=”display: none;”>YYCZPYYCZP</sup>   The attacker has added “display: none;” styling to each tag meaning the content of the element won’t appear in the displayed email. This means the recipient will only see the intended message displayed to them in a mail reader while making it difficult for legacy email security tools to pick up on any of the keywords that would indicate this as a phishing email.
By removing the superscript tags from the code we can more clearly see the message left behind that was displayed to the recipient.   Phishing URL   The email contained a phishing URL with the recipient address auto-populated at the end. The URL was added to a button labeled “Keep My Password”. Phishing link embedded in HTML email body        
The phishing link also contained a second URL nested in the query component of the first. The attacker is abusing an open redirect function in a well-known affiliate marketing network called Awin to redirect victims to the malicious site.   Phishing link from email:  hxxps://awin1.com/awclick.php?mid=2584&amp;id=201309&amp;p=hxxps%3a%2f%2fpcbmwc[.]org/fr#<recipient>@<domain>[.]com Which redirects to: hxxps://pcbmwc[.]org/fr#<recipient>@<domain>[.]com   The redirects are incorporated to bypass initial URL security checks common in legacy email security tools. Most security tools scanning URLs are likely to focus on the domain from the initial URL ‘awin1[.]com’ and recognise it as safe.   The domain in the nested URL ‘pcbmwc[.]org’ appears to belong to a buddhist monastery based in Patiya, Bangladesh. The site appears to be fairly basic and low budget, it is likely the attacker compromised this site and is using it to host part of their malicious infrastructure – an increasingly common tactic for phishing attacks.   The initial URL leads you to an apparently blank page. The source code reveals there is a script checking to make sure there is still an email address present at the end of the URL after the ‘#’. This is intended to be the target’s email address.  
If there isn’t an email address appended to the end of the URL then nothing will happen and you will stay on the blank page. If there is an email address included at the end, then the script redirects the target to the final landing page for the phishing site with that email address still included in the URL.   Link to the final phishing site:   hxxps://fra1.digitaloceanspaces[.]com/loskmwaksilopa/%23%25%5EE%26UY%23%26W%26%28%40.html#<recipient>@<domain>[.]com
Phishing Site Clicking the link from the original email will lead to the page below with the target’s email captured in the URL. The site is designed to resemble the Microsoft Outlook login page where you are prompted to enter your password. Looking at the source code for this site, it appears to be based on a previously seen template also used for Microsoft credential harvesting but with a few alterations.
To look as legitimate as possible, the site borrows graphics and styling directly from Microsoft owned CDNs. Entering a password into the box provided and clicking ‘Sign in’ would result in the email address from the URL and the password being captured and submitted through an AJAX post request to a php file hosted on a separate server.   PHP file:   hxxps://moliere[.]ma/aX3.php   The domain in the link to the PHP script appears to belong to a consulting firm based in Casablanca. If legitimate, then it too has likely been compromised by the attacker to host malicious infrastructure.   This script will most likely be what the attacker uses to harvest the credentials. It will either send the credentials to the attacker directly or store them in a location accessible by the attacker.    The source code of the site includes some jQuery scripts to perform a number of actions with the aim of making the site look and feel legitimate. This includes sections to provide feedback to the victim such as error messages and progress bars. One section checks to make sure the password entered isn’t blank and is more than one character long. Another section displays a fake progress bar after clicking sign in to give the illusion of a genuine login taking place.    If the credentials are submitted successfully then the victim is redirected to a genuine Microsoft login page and presented with the login screen again. The victim will assume that they entered their credentials incorrectly the first time and just carry on.   Another observation from the source code is that whoever wrote or borrowed the code has replaced most of the variable names and tag IDs with strings of seemingly random characters.    At closer inspection these random strings appear to be composed of various keyboard walk patterns. A keyboard walk is when you type a series of characters in the order they appear on the keyboard, for example ‘qwerty’ or ‘asdfg’. Often done by dragging a finger across the keyboard.   This has been done deliberately to make the code more difficult to read and follow without clearly labeled variables.
Phishing as a Service (PhaaS) The primary features and indicators from this phishing attack point to it being related to the BulletProofLink (aka BulletProftLink) phishing as a service site, which was detected and analyzed by Microsoft in late 2021.   This site offers phishing kits for sale to anyone and also offers infrastructure to host and run  malicious campaigns from. Phish kits or services will typically be available for sale for around $200.
Although there were some differences for the specific campaign analyzed here, the attack chain observed is virtually identical to that mapped out by Microsoft.  
This credential harvesting attempt is a good example of what is becoming a particularly common modus operandi to compromise an organization’s credentials and information system. The unfortunate reality is that such attempts have a high success rate of bypassing legacy and native email security controls. Threat actors are able to achieve this success through the use of obfuscation techniques that are tried and tested repeatedly against static, rule-based email security controls, until the desired outcome is achieved.   
With continuously advancing sophistication of phishing attacks, it becomes a matter of when, and not if, an organization’s legacy email security controls will be circumvented.  Behavioral cybersecurity solutions like Tessian are increasingly seen as a gamechanger and a necessity to ward off advanced social engineering-based attacks. Tessian detects and prevents phishing attacks as the one discussed on a daily basis for our clients. It does this by scanning not only the URL links, but all of the fields contained in an email and contrasts this against a historical mapping of the email ecosystem to determine using machine learning, whether the email is malicious or safe. End-users then receive in-the-moment security warnings prompting them towards safer action.
Appendix: Indicators Email Body (decoded) <sup style=”display: none;”>YYCZPYYCZP</sup>   URLs hxxps://awin1.com/awclick.php?mid=2584&amp;id=201309&amp;p=hxxps%3a%2f%2fpcbmwc[.]org/fr# hxxps://pcbmwc[.]org/fr# hxxps://fra1.digitaloceanspaces[.]com/loskmwaksilopa/%23%25%5EE%26UY%23%26W%26%28%40.html# hxxps://moliere[.]ma/aX3.php   Appendix: MITRE ATT&CK Framework The tactics and techniques used by the threat actor can be inferred based on analysis of the email and the phishing site that was active at the time of receipt.   TA0043: Reconnaissance  T1589: Gather Victim Identity Information T1589.002: Email Addresses T15905: Active Scanning   The attacker will have gathered email addresses to target either from data breaches dumped on the Internet or by scanning the target organizations’ public facing website for addresses, which will have most likely been found on their people page.   TA0042: Resource Development T1584: Compromise infrastructure T1584.004: Server T1588: Obtain Capabilities T1608: Stage Capabilities T1608.005: Link Target   The attacker will either have developed or obtained the scripts and pages used to construct their malicious email through a phishing as a service site. It also appears they may have compromised vulnerable web-servers to host some of their malicious infrastructure used for harvesting credentials including the redirection page, the malicious login page and the PHP script to collect the credentials. This could also have been provided as part of a PhaaS package.   TA0001: Initial Access T1566: Phishing T1566.002: Spear Phishing Link   The attacker sent emails impersonating Microsoft containing a phishing link aimed at harvesting credentials. These emails were sent from an AWS Apps server via Amazon SES. Meaning the attacker may have compromised an existing AWS account or set one up for this campaign.   TA0005: Defense Evasion   A number of techniques were employed to evade detection. The first is the use of Amazon SES to make emails appear reputable and pass security checks. The attacker also obfuscated the message in the email by placing hidden HTML elements at random intervals, making it difficult for security tools to pick up on keywords.   An open redirect was also used in the phishing URL to send the recipient to the malicious site via a trusted one first. Security tools and the recipient will often see the domain for the trusted site and assume the URL is safe.
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Integrated Cloud Email Security, ATO/BEC
Playing Russian Roulette with Email Security: Why URL Link Rewriting Isn’t Effective
by John Filitz Friday, February 18th, 2022
Malicious URL link-based attacks are tried and tested methods for threat actors to compromise information systems. Although legacy Secure Email Gateway (SEG) vendors offer URL link rewriting protection – also referred to as time-of-click protection – there are significant limitations in the degree of protection provided by this security control.    Unlike behavioral cybersecurity solutions like Tessian that dynamically and in real time scan all of the content in an email, including URL links and attachments, SEGs rely on a manual, rule-based threat detection approach. But with this approach, your protection is only as effective as the rules and policies you have created, combined with the relevancy of your threat detection engine.    The static approach to malicious URL link detection by SEGs explains why zero day threats often get through defenses. And the lack of machine learning scanning capability also explains why threat actors are able to successfully hide malicious URLs either as attachments or even in plain text.  For example, APT 39 successfully leveraged malicious URL links that  were hidden or attached in phishing emails to carry out an elaborate espionage and data gathering campaign, across multiple jurisdictions. Similar attacks are usually but not exclusively motivated by credential harvesting for Account Takeover (ATO) purposes.
How URL link rewriting protection works   SEGs that offer URL link rewriting typically scan and rewrite URLs that are contained in any inbound email via its own network. This means all links contained in any email received through the gateway are rewritten via the email security vendor’s system.     URL link rewriting detects malicious URL links at the time of a user clicking on the link by analyzing the link against key criteria specified in the security rules and policies, as well as against its threat repository of known malicious URLs.    When it comes to the security rules and policies, SEGs require the security admin to set the degree to which URL categories are scanned and also allows select email groups in an organization to be included or excluded. The scanning intensity settings typically range from relaxed, moderate to aggressive.    If a URL link is determined to be malicious based on rules and policies, as well as the reputation of the link, the end-user will be notified and warned against accessing the malicious URL.
Five shortcomings of URL link rewriting protection    1. URL link rewriting is an overly manual security control prone to human error   URL link rewriting or time-of-click protection requires a significant degree of manual security rule and policy orchestration. Due to the post-delivery approach of allowing malicious URLs to be delivered and only scanning URLs upon being clicked, without well-configured URL detection rules and policies, the security effectiveness of this static control is significantly compromised.The static nature of URL policy and rule orchestration also opens up the probability of human error introducing security risk, by either failing to set the appropriate degree of URL scanning intensity, or failing to include appropriate user groups.     2. URL link rewriting is ineffective at protecting against zero day attacks   URL link rewriting offers protection against known threats only. It offers limited protection against zero day attacks. For example, registering new domains or hijacking existing “trusted” domains are popular methods of evasion by threat actors. Once the threat actor has evaded security controls aka passed through the gateway, they have unfettered access to end-users who are under the impression that the email and included URL link has been scanned and is safe. Usually only after a successful compromise is the malicious URL threat detection engine updated.     3. URL link rewriting lacks the intelligence to detect advanced phishing subterfuge    Threat actors find sophisticated ways to obfuscate malicious URLs. They typically do not include malicious URLs in the email but often hide them in “safe” URL redirects or in attachments that are not commonly used, or are outside of the security policy ambit. Upon opening the file or clicking on the URL link, victims are taken to what appears to be a legitimate website, which redirects to a malicious website appearing as a trusted services provider.       4. Protection starts and stops at the gateway   URL link rewriting can be deployed from within the organization via a lateral phishing attack. Malicious URLs can be deployed from trusted sources within the organization and thereby misses the gateway protection.      5. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail   URL link rewriting offers no protection against cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. In this type of attack, threat actors will send a benign looking URL link to a victim, usually from a legitimate but recently compromised website. Here the threat actor is able to capture credentials from the victim, for example on a log-in page of the compromised website. Legacy email security solutions would have determined that the link is “safe” even if the email was received from an unknown or suspicious party.
The need for intelligent email security    Email-based attacks remain the overwhelming favorite vector for attack. The forever evolving and advancing nature of email based threats has placed the effectiveness of legacy email security controls into sharp focus.    With its static orchestration and binary threat detection approach, URL link rewriting is the embodiment of legacy approaches to addressing email security risk. Simply stated, this security control is no longer fit for purpose in a dynamic threatscape, where threat actors are continuously honing their capabilities at circumventing rule-based security controls.  Only by leveraging email security solutions that have machine learning and contextually aware scanning capability, can you significantly improve your email security posture. See why CISOs at some of the leading organizations around the world are selecting Tessian as the advanced email security provider of choice. Book a demo now.
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ATO/BEC
Phishing 101: What is Phishing?
Thursday, February 17th, 2022
First things first: let’s answer the question at hand.
That’s the short and sweet definition. But, there’s more you need to know. Phishing is a common type of social engineering attack that cybercriminals have been conducting for decades. In this article, we’ll take a look at some different types of phishing, how these differ from “traditional” phishing, and how phishing attacks work. Wondering what social engineering is? Check out this article, which includes plenty of real-world examples.   Definitions of phishing If you look at the definition above, you’ll notice we made an important distinction in the last sentence. “Phishing is typically bulk in nature and not personalized for an individual target.” But, oftentimes, you’ll hear the word “phishing” used as an umbrella term to cover many types of online social engineering attacks, including:   Spear phishing: A phishing attack targeting a specific individual Whaling: A phishing attack targeting a company executive Smishing: Phishing via SMS Vishing: Voice-phishing, via phone or VoIP software What links all these types of attacks? They all involve some form of “impersonation” — the attacker pretends to be a person or institution that the target is likely to trust. But, in this article, we’ll focus on traditional “spray and pray” phishing attacks. It’s one of the most straightforward types of online social engineering attacks.   Importantly, this “old-school” form of cybercrime is distinct from all the examples above because:   Unlike smishing or vishing, phishing attacks occur via email. Unlike spear phishing and whaling, traditional phishing isn’t targeted. Attackers send phishing emails indiscriminately, rather than emailing a specific individual. If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out how phishing is different from spam, we’ve answered all your questions in this article: Spam vs. Phishing: The Difference Between Spam and Phishing.   How phishing works   Let’s take a real-life example of a phishing attack to see how this type of cybercrime works. It appears to comes from a brand most of us know and trust: Netflix.
So, what makes it a phishing email? The “UPDATE ACCOUNT NOW” button leads to a malicious website (not Netflix’s genuine website) designed to steal payment information. But, the average person wouldn’t know that.   The email arrived from “info@mailer.netflix.com” — a person could reasonably believe this was a genuine Netflix email address The “Help Center” and “Communications Settings” links lead to Netflix’s actual website The Netflix logo and branding look authentic But look a little closer, and you’ll notice a few giveaways.   The greeting is generic (“Hello ,”). This suggests that this is a bulk email sent to many recipients. The email asks for payment details. Netflix will never request payment information via email. There’s a typo (“We re here if you need it”). Typos are increasingly rare in phishing emails, but they should always raise a red flag.   This is not your typical “Nigerian prince” scam and it’s easy to see why so many people – both consumers and employees – fall for these scams. If you’re looking for statistics to back this up, check out this article: Must-Know Phishing Statistics (Updated 2021).   Note that this scam appears to use “email impersonation”: the sender address (mailer.netflix.com) looks like it could be an authentic Netflix domain, but Netflix doesn’t own that domain at all. Hackers can also use account takeover and email spoofing for more advanced phishing attacks.   What is phishing for?   We’ve looked at how criminals use different methods to conduct phishing scams and target different types of people. But why do they do it? Attackers use phishing scams to target different types of resources. For example: Credentials. Cybercriminals steal usernames and passwords to sell them on the dark web, access company data, or conduct account take-over attacks. Personal information. Addresses, social security numbers — even lists of names associated with a particular platform can be valuable to cybercriminals, who can use them to target spear phishing attacks. Money. Phishing attacks aiming to trick the target into transferring money to the attacker are common, but they’re normally reserved for more sophisticated types of phishing such as Business Email Compromise (BEC), which the FBI calls “the $26 billion scam.” Want to know which of these resources hackers target the most frequently? Download this infographic.   How common is phishing?   Phishing has become a huge criminal industry, and there’s no sign of it getting smaller. Here are some of the latest statistics:   The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) 2020 Internet Crime Report cites phishing as the leading cause of cybercrime complaints. Phishing complaints more than doubled between 2019 and 2020. According to Verizon’s 2020 data breach report, 96% of phishing attacks arrive by email (smishing and vishing account for 3% and 1% of attacks, respectively). Phishing is on the rise. Microsoft’s 2021 Future of Work report shows that 80% of organizations experienced an increase in security threats in 2020 — and of these, 62% said phishing showed the most significant increase. As a major cause of data breaches, phishing is a considerable business expense. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million.   Want more of the most up-to-date figures on phishing? Subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, straight to your inbox.  Now you know what “phishing” means, how common it is, and how much damage it can cause. If you want to learn how to protect yourself from phishing, check out our guidance on how to avoid falling for phishing attacks.
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Threat Intel, ATO/BEC
Spear Phishing Attack Impersonating C-Suite Targets Junior Employees at Law Firm
by Charles Brook Thursday, February 10th, 2022
In late January 2022 a specialist law firm was the target of a spear phishing campaign flagged by Tessian Defender where the threat actor attempted to impersonate the Chairman of the firm. Leveraging common social engineering tactics, the threat actor then targeted the firm’s junior employees. This is known as CEO Fraud.
Impersonation attacks are becoming a mainstay for threat actors. Based on our investigation  into the 2021 spear phishing landscape, we determined that 60% of the malicious emails seen in Tessian’s network relied on generic impersonation techniques, including freemail impersonation and Display Name Impersonation. An additional 30% relied on more advanced impersonation techniques, including direct impersonation like domain spoofing, direct spoofing and account takeover (ATO).
The Attack   The attacker leveraged the name of the chairman and used a freemail domain. Display name and domain name impersonation spoofs accounted for 4.9% of all malicious email detected and prevented by Tessian in 2021.
Email Content: Sender Address: <Name of Chairman>.<Website Domain>@gmail[.]com Display Name <Name of Chairman> Subject:  <Name of Chairman> Body: Asking if recipients have time available Expressing a sense of urgency Links & Attachments None   The threat actor registered an email address using Gmail and chose a username that contained the name of the law firm’s chairman, together with the domain used for it’s website. They also changed the display name associated with the account to match the name of the chairman as it appeared on the firm’s website.   After that, the attacker drafted an email with a generic message containing a call to action, asking the recipient “are you available?”. It was sent to +200 individuals at the firm.   The email did not contain links or attachments when it was sent, just the message added by the threat actor. This indicates intent to engage in social engineering via correspondence with recipients.
This style of phishing usually leads to the threat actor trying to convince the recipient to send money or share information that could be leveraged for a more advanced phishing attack. This low-cost-of-effort phishing attempt explains why social engineering now accounts for 70-90% of all successful breaches.   In other cases it can involve sending a few messages back and forth to establish a baseline of trust, before sending a malicious attachment or URL in subsequent emails. Having established trust, the recipient is more likely to click without feeling much concern or suspicion. This also explains why advanced social engineering threats bypass detection by legacy Secure Email Gateways (SEGs), either due to the sophisticated degree of subterfuge in name and domain name spoofing, or because the malicious payload is not present in the initial email.
The Approach   The majority of phishing attacks using this approach will typically come from addresses registered by a threat actor, for example, looking something like “partner1234@gmail[.]com” or “manager5678@hotmail[.]com”.    Attackers use freemail accounts because of their utility in carrying out attacks and zero cost. Freemail accounts that deliver malicious payloads via a proxy server are also notoriously difficult to trace for attribution. Accounts like this will continue to be used to target multiple organizations.   In the case of this attack the address was created as “<Name of Chairman>.<Website Domain>@gmail[.]com”, this indicates deliberate intent to target this firm specifically.    The fact that the threat actor sent the email to +200 junior members of the firm indicates a higher level of planning and reconnaissance than most of these types of attacks typically have.    Our research confirms that law firms are targeted 31% of the time for impersonation style phishing attacks.  And firms tend to post details of most employees on their websites including names, email addresses and positions held. Many are also active on networking platforms like LinkedIn. This makes reconnaissance very easy for threat actors.
In the case of this impersonation campaign, the threat actor will have found the firm’s people page, searched for a senior individual to impersonate, then filtered down to the more junior individuals to target.    The C-Suite was impersonated in this attack to amplify the call to action in the messaging and to increase the sense of urgency felt by the targets. Likewise, junior employees were targeted in this attack because they were possibly seen as being more likely to comply with instructions received from senior management.    Another hypothesis could be that the threat actor was seeking to gain more information to wage a secondary spear phishing attack, targeting more strategic positions in the firm such as the finance department.
Real-time, comprehensive email protection Tessian was able to detect the phishing techniques deployed by the threat actor for this campaign. Tessian recognized the law firm’s domain in the local part of the email address and the name of the chairman in the display name. It also detected suspicious keywords indicative of an urgent call to action, which included “are you available?” and “quick”.    Tessian also detected that the address used by the attacker had not been observed in historical emails sent to anyone at the law firm.   Many of the recipients at the law firm responded to the in-the-moment security warning message from Tessian and confirmed that the email was actually malicious.   All it takes is one click.    This example underscores the relentless pursuit of threat actors, attempting to gain access to an organization’s crown jewels. As attacks become more advanced, it requires a defense-in-depth approach to email security. Leveraging email security solutions that have behavioral detection and in-the-moment security awareness training capabilities is now table stakes to securing your email ecosystem.
Appendix: MITRE ATT&CK Framework The tactics and techniques used by the threat actor can be inferred up to the point the email was received.   TA0043: Reconnaissance – https://attack.mitre.org/tactics/TA0043/ Gather Victim Org Information – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1591/ Identify Roles – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1591/004/   T1589: Gather VIctim Identity Information – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1589 T1589.002: Email Addresses – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1589/002 T1589.003: Employee Names – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1589/003   The threat actor carried out reconnaissance activities against the target’s website. Here they identified the key individuals to impersonate and target. Using the people directory available on the website they were able to identify the chairman of the law firm to impersonate via email and get a list of names and email addresses for associates at the firm to target.    TA0042: Resource Development – https://attack.mitre.org/tactics/TA0042 T1585: Establish Accounts – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1585/ T1585.002: Email Accounts – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1585/002/   After identifying a high ranking member of the firm, the threat actor registered an email account with Gmail. They created an account with a username containing the name of the chairman of the firm as well as the domain used for the firm’s website. They also changed the display name associated with the account to that of the chairman.   TA0001: Initial Access – https://attack.mitre.org/tactics/TA0001 T1566: Phishing – https://attack.mitre.org/techniques/T1566/   With a free email address registered, a senior staff member to impersonate and a list of victims to target, the threat actor sent an email to more than 200 associates at the firm. The email contained a message explaining they were the chairman of the firm and wanted to know if they were available to help them quickly.    TA0005: Defense Evasion – https://attack.mitre.org/tactics/TA0005/   The threat actor avoided detection through conventional means by registering a new email address and not including a malicious link or attachment in their initial email. SEGs typically rely on known IOCs to be able to detect malicious activity. Since there was no attachment or URL in this case, there was nothing to scan or lookup the reputation for.   MITRE D3FEND Framework Most of the techniques used by the threat actor were reconnaissance-based and occured at the pre-compromise phase outside of the scope of typical defenses and controls meaning they could not be easily mitigated without advanced email protection.   Detect – https://d3fend.mitre.org/tactic/d3f:Detect D3-SRA: Sender Reputation Analysis – https://d3fend.mitre.org/technique/d3f:SenderReputationAnalysis   Sender reputation analysis can be used to detect unwanted or malicious emails by analyzing information about the sender. This can include information over time such as the number of emails received, number of recipients, number of emails replied to etc.   The problem with this attack is the email address used by the threat actor will likely have been recently registered using a reputable freemail service and would have been unseen to the law firm before. This means there is limited information available to determine the sender reputation. Detection can be done based on the email address having not been seen before; however with legacy email security controls this type of detection can generate high levels of alerts and false positives.  
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ATO/BEC
It Started With a Click… Huge Rise in Romance Scams for Second Year Running
by Andrew Webb Thursday, February 10th, 2022
If you thought the end of lockdowns might mean a drop in romance fraud scams, well, prepare to be heart broken… Lonely hearts looking for love are highly attractive… to scammers that is. The number of people targeted by romance fraud scams has nearly doubled in 2021, according to our latest research.
By adopting a fake identity or even impersonating a celebrity online, cybercriminals will spin a story to trick and manipulate their victims into sharing money or information that could be used to later commit identity fraud. Oftentimes, they won’t ask for the money outright. They’ll build trust over time, building a relationship. These are tried and tested social engineering tactics that are designed to manipulate human emotions – and they sadly can work on anyone.   32% of respondents have received a romance fraud scam in the last 12 months – a significant increase from the 18% of people surveyed previously.  Isolating the US, 43% said they had received a romance fraud scam – up from 29% in 2021 – and in the UK, 14% said they had been targeted by romance scammers – up from 8% in 2021.    Why are scammers investing in this particular type of attack? Because vulnerable people make easy targets. Loneliness was a public health issue back in 2018, and COVID just made everything a lot worse. Which is why incidents of romance fraud have surged during the pandemic. What’s more, we’re now much more used to conducting all aspects of our lives online, often asynchronously, rather than face to face in real life.
How are romance scams delivered? Email remains – just – the most popular attack vector for romance scams. When we asked which platforms they had received ‘romance’ messages on, personal email ranked top with 51% of respondents saying they had received fraudulent phishing emails from ‘love interests’ via this channel. This was hotly followed by 50% of respondents, who said they had received messages via Facebook. 45% had been targeted over text messages. Of course this may be the ‘tip of the iceberg’, as many victims are too embarrassed to come forward.
The rise of the celebrity love interest   Worryingly, a number of stories of cybercriminals impersonating celebrities have been reported to the media in the last 12 months. One woman was duped by a scammer pretending to be Nicolas Cage, conning her out of nearly $14,000. The continuing rise in romance fraud shows just how cybercriminals continue to exploit people’s vulnerabilities as they did during the pandemic.
Tessian’s top tips for spotting a romance scam   • Here’s our advice to avoid falling for a romance scam:    • Question any requests for personal or financial information from individuals you do not know or have not met in person, and to verify the identity of someone they’re speaking to via a video call.   • Never send money or a gift online to someone who you haven’t met in person.   • Keep social media profiles and posts private. Scammers will trawl social media to discover their victims and find information that they can use to build a relationship with you.    • Don’t accept friend requests or DMs from people you don’t know personally.    • Be suspicious of requests from someone you’ve met on the internet. Scammers will often ask for money via wire transfers or reload cards because they’re difficult to reverse.   • Be wary of any email you receive from someone you don’t know.    • Never click on a link or download an attachment from an unusual email address.   • Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.   The FBI and Action Fraud has also provided citizens with useful advice on how to avoid falling for a romance scam and guidance for anyone who thinks they may have already been targeted by a scammer. 
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