Social Engineering in Real Life

Social engineering attacks refer to the attempt to manipulate targeted individuals into providing confidential information online. These attacks fool victims by using techniques to conceal the true identity of the hacker, presenting them instead as a trustworthy individual or organisation.

How common is social engineering in real life?

According to a study conducted in 2018, 17% of targeted individuals fell victim to social engineering attacks. These attacks can place a company’s entire network at serious risk. The most recognised form of social engineering is phishing, where attackers exploit individuals by sending infected emails with links or attachments that lead to malicious websites.

What are the effects of social engineering?

Any cybersecurity attack can have a catastrophic impact on a business, no matter the size. Therefore, ensuring your team is prepared to deal with these seemingly trustworthy messages is so important. Some effects of an attack include:

Financial implications: Most of the time, attackers are after the cash. This technique is often used to fool employees into paying money into fake accounts on behalf of their company. This could be a criminal falsely posing as a legitimate supplier requesting payment. This is especially effective where finance teams do not work closely with purchasing and are less likely to spot a seemingly accurate invoice for something that has never actually been ordered.

Damage to business reputation: Cybersecurity attacks are also dangerous because of the risk to the integrity of both business and customer information. Customers feel safest when those they share their data with incorporate data protection conformance very clearly into their processes.

Halt to business productivity: Social engineering attacks rely on gaining a certain amount of trust over a period to successfully manipulate an individual into handing out confidential information. This often results in a significant amount of lost time. Both the scam itself and resulting recovery operations can be extremely time consuming, not to mention costly.

Real Life Social Engineering Examples

Unfortunately, social engineering attacks such as phishing, baiting and scareware are common because of their realistic appearances online. We all think we won’t fall victim to these scams, right? In reality, social engineering attacks are extremely believable and so many people are easily fooled into freely handing out information or clicking that link.

Here are some examples of real-world stories that might help convince you of the severity of these attacks:

1. The 100-million-dollar Google and Facebook Phishing scam:

One of the biggest social engineering attacks of all time was conducted by a Lithuanian national who went up against both Facebook and Google. The attacker’s team set up a fake company that posed as a computer manufacturer working with the two companies.

Next, emails were sent to employees, invoicing them for goods and services that another supplier had provided. The group then directed this cash to fraudulent accounts.

2. The SharePoint phishing fraud that targeted remote workers

This very recent phishing attack saw attackers use cloud-based software to request signatures on a document hosted by (apparently) Microsoft SharePoint. The email contained the malicious link, which employees believed to be legitimate because of its appearance. Such criminals are extremely sophisticated in the way they present malicious links, which is why so many people fell victim this attack.

3. The White House Hack

The White House itself fell prey to an attack last year – although the intent was more mischief than malice. Many have tried to access the networks within the White House in the past. On this occasion they were successful. Posing as Jared Kushner, a key member of former President Donald Trump’s team, the UK-based individual was able to secure the private email address of the administration’s cybersecurity chief. If the most powerful office in the world can be breached, it just goes to show that just about any organisation is vulnerable.

The time and dedication put into conducting social engineering attacks makes these scams much more realistic and dangerous for anyone who finds themselves a target.

If you want to start taking the right precautions to protect your business from unwanted attacks, then get in touch with us today or find out more here.

Cyber Crime Risks: The Social Media Edition

Social media cyber crime

Use of social media is popular in both our personal and work lives, and this doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. In fact, it’s a given for businesses nowadays. Most organisations use social media as a tool to help promote their business and engage with customers as a key part of their marketing strategy. However, many underestimate the cyber security risks they could be exposed to.

Between September 2019 and September 2020, email and social media accounted for 53% of attacks in the UK, which shows why it’s important to have an awareness of the potential risks of the use of social media for both the businesses and your staff. Making sure every member of your team is aware in the first place is a great way to start protecting your business. This article explores a few things to be particularly wary of when it comes to social media and cyber crime.

Potential Cyber Crime Risks

Unsecure Mobile Devices

The most common platform on which to access social media is a mobile device. This ease of access means it is important to make sure access control is robust. This can be done by using a personal password, which should be at least eight characters long according to NCSC guidelines, pin code or fingerprint ID to secure your phone.

Unused Social Media Accounts

Deleting unused or unwanted accounts and apps will also help to protect you and your business from hackers, as does keeping track of all activity across active accounts. This ensures you can spot more quickly if hackers are posting counterfeit messages from your account.

Malware

Malware can be hidden in many guises from seemingly innocent links via direct message to malicious apps on the app store. Its main goal is often to steal important, personal information from your accounts to exploit. Be wary of which links you click, especially those that are unsolicited. Installing anti-virus software is an easy way to combat intrusive and exploitative malware.

Imposter Accounts/Scams

Deciding whether an account is real or not can be challenging. In 2020, Facebook blocked 1.3 billion fake accounts. Be sure to report or block any suspicious accounts and only add people you already know directly. A suspicious account may have very little information attached to it and limited activity history. Other indicators are small numbers of friends and only one or even no profile picture.

Sensitive Data

Be careful when sharing information or posting pictures from your workplace. It’s easy to overshare and this information may negatively impact your business or your employees. Be respectful when posting pictures of vulnerable employees and don’t share any unnecessary information. Hackers use clever tactics to monitor your social media and can even guess what your passwords may be. Authentication questions with a personal element, such as a pet’s name, often give enough clues for them to join the dots. Often the criminals can easily obtain this data from your social media posts themselves or information that’s visible in the background. A tactic to look out for is questions within ‘memes’. Answering these questions (i.e. your new name is your pet’s name + your mother’s maiden name) could hand personal information straight to cybercriminals.

Personal Information

For small businesses, sharing personal information often helps customers to get to know the business better. However, as mentioned above, it is easy to overshare and put your employees in danger. Make sure you have the permission of employees before posting anything regarding their personal lives. From a security aspect, by sharing personal information, you can make it easier for the criminals to break into accounts. They can then use this data to guess passwords and gain access. For example, a milestone birthday tells the world wide web that individuals precise date of birth.

Privacy Settings

Checking the privacy settings on your social profiles is a swift way to protect your information from data breaches. Double check who can see which posts and which elements of your profile. In fact, it is worth keeping your profile private, with only friends able to view what you are up to. Who can add you? Anyone? Or only friends of friends?

Third Party Quizzes

Links to quizzes often require you to enable unlimited access to your personal information. So, while it may be tempting to find out what character from Friends you are, don’t. It may come at the cost of your own private data.

Four MORE Ways to Stay Safe

There are even more ways to manage your accounts and combat the threats mentioned above. These are as follows…

Social Media Approval

Using both a social media plan for your business marketing, and an approval system will help to stop the wrong posts being shared. Make sure you have the opportunity to review both the text and any accompanying images that may contain personal or sensitive information, especially in the background. If you spot someone’s password on a post-it note stuck to their monitor, there may well be another conversation to be had…

Training Employees

Making employees aware of the risks through mandatory training on media literacy and security is a great idea to reduce human error and increase overall safety on social media. In fact, many schools are considering making digital media literacy a compulsory part of their curriculum in the near future.

Social Media Policies

Although they can seem tedious and time consuming, policies are there to protect you and your business from harm. A detailed social media policy will ensure the accuracy and suitability of shared content, as well as usage of own devices.

Limiting Access

Ensure only the necessary individuals have access to company social media profiles. Fewer people with knowledge of those valuable passwords decreases the likelihood of leaks and also means you’ll know who’s responsible if there are any issues.

Beware the DM

Although being able to privately message via social media has many benefits; it is important to be careful about what information is sent. Be aware that such methods of communication won’t have the same level of security as an email.

Use 2FA/MFA to Protect Online Accounts

2FA, also known as two-factor authentication helps to protect online accounts by using something you have, something you know or something you are – together. Many software providers now offer this technique as an additional layer of protection if password databases are compromised. Users are required to log in with two different methods of authentication. This could be a password followed by a code sent via SMS or email or even via an authenticator app such as those created by Google or Microsoft. MFA (multi-factor authentication), as the name suggests, uses multiple methods to help identify a genuine user. With 2FA/MFA, it is more difficult for malicious actors to gather all the information they need to gain access.

 Social media use is now a necessary part of working and personal life. However, using these platforms does not need to open your business and employees to dangerous threats. Follow the tips above to ensure you and your business have the protection you deserve.

If you would like more advice on protecting your business from security threats, get in touch with SupPortal today.

Is your business under attack from ransomware?

The use of technological devices has increased on a global scale. As a result, one of the fastest growing online crimes, ransomware, has become a large threat to businesses and their data. After locking you out of your systems, a hacker will proceed to hold your data for ransom before allowing access once again.

In the event of a data leak, you may lose your data. BUT, you could also lose your client base and reputation as well. Businesses need to ensure they can identify the signs that indicate you are under a ransomware attack. This is vital to protect your business and safeguard your data.

If you can stop an attack early on, you have more chances of recovering data more quickly and limiting the damage. Is your business under attack?

Here are some signs you should look out for:

Look for unexpected software 

One method used by hackers is taking control of your system through certain software tools. Software auditing tools, such as Qualys, can give you an up-to-date inventory of the software you have installed. You can then compare this against your approved list of applications to quickly see if anything has been added without your approval.

Whether malicious software can take control of a PC directly or steal passwords and log in credentials, using a network scanner is imperative. This helps to identify exactly who and what is running the unexpected software.

Identifying whether cybercriminals are attempting to infiltrate your network early on may prevent the ransomware attack from happening. This will limit the harm to your business and its data. Contact your IT support partner if you notice software present that your IT provider hasn’t installed. This could be a sign of a bigger problem. Having awareness of what should be installed versus what shouldn’t be will go a long way.

Most ransomware is run as a script, which runs in memory as such, so you wouldn’t find it as part of your installed programmes. More recent large attacks have been focused on those companies such as IT providers, Solarwinds & Kaseya for example. These provide legitimate monitoring tools that sit on the machines of end user’s machines to help monitor and mange them. These installed agents have been compromised and allowed thousand of machines to fall victim to ransomware.

Suspicious emails 

Ransomware often attacks begin with a phishing campaign. This is when a legitimate looking email is sent to your business. Although they do not look suspicious, they have been embedded with malicious links or attachments. It is best practice to stay informed about the different phishing techniques that are currently in use to reduce the risk of falling victim to the crime.

These emails tend to have a sense of urgency around them. They may encourage the reader to forgo the usual safety checks. They may appear to come from a colleague that needs help. This is what makes them so dangerous: they tend to prey on these human traits, compassion, and greed.

You may wish to undertake security awareness training and simulated phishing to gain even more knowledge on the topic. SupPortal can offer suitable training to help with this. This will help you spot the signs of ransomware immediately. One of the best things you can do is think before you click! Clicking on random links that appear in junk emails can easily be avoided. Take a moment to look properly at the email, who it has come from. Then apply what you know about phishing to avoid falling into the trap. Then take the appropriate steps to get rid of the email.

Use firewalls

Monitoring incoming and outgoing network traffic will also significantly reduce the risk of being hacked. These firewalls monitor and filter the traffic and act as a barrier between your computer, and outside intruders. With two different kinds: a desktop firewall which is a type of software and a network firewall that is a separate hardware device, you are drastically reducing the odds of both hackers and phishers infiltrating your business’s important data.

Verify a site’s security 

When disclosure of sensitive financial information is necessary and you are feeling a little wary as to whether you are amid a ransomware attack, make sure you confirm the site’s URL. It should begin with ‘https’ and you should see a closed lock icon near the address bar to show the site has an SSL certificate. If you receive a message claiming the website may contain malicious files, do not proceed!

You can also use the web browsers ‘smart screen’ filter can help to highlight dangerous sites. Ensure you are extremely thorough when it comes to checking the validity of a website and don’t submit your financial information straight away. Being cautious and aware of suspicious content within an email or a site will help you take a step back from the situation and identify any malicious activity straight away.

Using a safe DNS provider, such as OpenDNS powered by Cisco Umbrella, can keep you away from malicious sites. Ensure you have anti-malware software actively scanning webpages as you browse them.

Have you noticed any open RDP links?

An RDP link, also known as remote desktop protocol, is one of the ways cyber criminals can gain access into your network. With remote working on the rise, this can become a very real threat for businesses. Avoid using RDP to directly connect your business machines over the internet. You should only use RDP in combination with a VPN (virtual private network). Should you use them, your IT service provider can ensure your RDP links are closed off by scanning regularly.

Who are your administrators?

Your administrators have the authority and power to authorise applications for download to your network. Keep an eye on what your administrators have changed as cyber criminals can disguise themselves and download apps without you even realising. It is important to note that these tools can also be used by an IT service provider. So, keep up to date with your administrators, and if you’re ever unsure of unfamiliar software, just ask!

It is also important that logins or passwords are not shared, especially for admin accounts. This will make it easier to pinpoint any potential breaches connected to individual logins. Maintain a list of who has admin access and regularly check this against the system. This will ensure you can identify any additions that may have been added. This is part of the guidance given to those undertaking Cyber Essential Certification.

Has anything been disabled?

It can be hard to identify whether your systems have been disabled if you don’t know what to look out for. By completing cybercrime training, users will be more aware of what to look out for in the event of a ransomware attack, and what to do next.

Nobody wants to fall victim to a ransomware attack, especially when they own a business that handles both important and sensitive data. Not every malicious attack has to become a cautionary tale, so follow these crucial tips today and protect your business from harm. If you need further advice about how to protect your business from cybercrime, get in touch with SupPortal today.

Remote Working & Cyber Security – What do I need to know?

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and a few minutes of cyber-incident to ruin it.” – Stephane Nappo

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working in the UK has increased significantly. According to the ONS, in April 2020, nearly 50% in UK employment worked from home.

Although many are now returning to the workplace, a great deal are choosing to adopt a ‘hybrid’ working rota, combining working from home and the office.

It is important for businesses to consider the cyber security risks that remote working presents. This article will explore what you need to know.

What are the risks?

There are numerous risks that online working itself presents, such as phishing, viruses and malware. Many offices will have established online cyber security policies and practices in place so that their office staff can work securely within work premises. However, flexible and hybrid working opens up the opportunity for hackers to access data through new vulnerabilities.

What about passwords and encryption?

Encrypting data before sending it via email or a secure file-sharing platform can ensure that access to data remains restricted.

Enhanced cyber security options like two-factor authorisation (requiring a password and PIN for example) can provide an added layer of security. Also, any ‘mobile’ device that holds corporate data should be encrypted. These include laptops, removable hard drives, memory sticks and phones. This will ensure that if the device is lost or stolen then the data remains safe.

These safeguards are especially important when employees are transporting work devices between different locations as the likelihood of loss or theft is far greater. It is important that businesses have contingency plans in place to support staff in these instances.

Does your company encourage BYOD?

BYOD, means ‘bring your own device’ and describes when staff carry out work on a personal device. Many companies allow their staff to use their own smartphones and laptops whilst working remotely. This is often a practical and efficient solution for your employees to work seamlessly from wherever they are.

It is important to provide staff with clear IT policies, to set boundaries and retain administrative control of company data. This will help to keep devices, company networks and data secure.

What should an IT policy include?

IT policies may include a range of measures. For example, ensuring employees have up-to-date anti-malware and anti-virus software installed on their devices.

It is important that employees don’t set ‘weak’ passwords for accessing company systems. Commonly used passwords are very easy for sophisticated hackers to guess (and even those less sophisticated. This becomes even more important when employees are accessing company networks and data from their own devices.

IT policies should also cover the essential training requirements that teach employees what security measures are needed when accessing their work and why they should be adhered to. Understanding the risks of common scams (such as scam emails) enables employees to mitigate the dangers from phishing and other hacking strategies.

How can you monitor cyber security in public places?

Steps need to be put in place to enforce cyber security when staff members are working in public places.

There are several ways to keep your device safe on a public Wi-Fi network. When using public networks staff should be advised to:

  • Ensure the credibility of a network before connecting. If in doubt, don’t connect.
  • Disable file sharing.
  • Use a VPN to encrypt data and disguise the device’s IP address from potential hackers.
  • Make sure the device has an up-to-date firewall and anti-virus software enabled.

The National Cyber Security Centre offers helpful information to companies planning their remote working strategy. You can also read our blog here on tips to help keep your corporate network secure when employees are working from home.

For more information, advice and support keeping your corporate network secure, get in touch with SupPortal today.

Cyber Essentials Requirements Have Changed: Here’s What You Need to Know


Cyber Essentials Requirements Have Changed: Here’s What You Need to Know…

Cyber Essentials is a government scheme that covers your business and ensures you are protected against IT threats. By holding a certificate, you protect both your clients and your business from potential devastating threats and indicate how seriously you take IT security. If you would like to find out more about Cyber Essentials, read our handy guide here. In April 2021, changes were be made to the Cyber Essentials Requirements.

As a governing body, IASME reviews and makes the relevant updates to Cyber Essentials technical controls so that they are up to date and relevant. This ensures that Cyber Essentials is as effective as possible at protecting your software and devices against threats. Although no major updates have occurred, there is a series of changes to clarify to the requirements, effective from 26th April 2021. Here, we will help you understand exactly what you need to know about the Cyber Essentials requirement changes.

 

1. New Definitions for a Corporate Virtual Private Network (VPN), organisational services and organisational data.

  • A Corporate VPN is a VPN solution that connects back to the applicant’s office location or to a virtual/cloud firewall. This must be administered by the applicant organisation so that the firewall controls can be applied.
  • Organisational data includes any electronic data belonging to the applicant organisation. For example, emails, office documents, database data, financial data.

Organisational data used to come under the wording “Business Data” but proved a bit too woolly, so two new definitions have been introduced.

  • Organisational services include any software applications, Cloud applications, Cloud services, User Interactive desktops and Mobile Device management solutions owned or subscribed to by the applicant organisation. For example, Web applications, Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, MDM Containers, Citrix Desktop, VDI solutions, RDP desktop.

Our thoughts..

A VPN (Virtual private network) is a way of securely connecting remote workers to other computers controlled by your organisation. This may be provided with a router that does this for you. The important thing to remember when using a VPN is that all traffic must be passed through your corporate firewall. This is so your organisation can control the traffic going to and from its computer systems and services. However, whilst apps like Nord VPN or Express VPN might be useful for protecting your anonymity online, they don’t give you the same end to end security as one provided by your organisation.

 

2. ‘Out of Scope’ Update for BYOD.

In addition to mobile or remote devices owned by the organisation, user-owned devices which access organisational data or services are in scope (native voice and SMS text applications are out of scope alongside multi-factor authentication usage).

Our thoughts…

If your organisation allows employees to access data or services owned by the company on their own personal devices, such as mobile phone, laptop etc, then the organisation must ensure that these devices comply in the same way corporate devices do. For example, they must use strong passwords, enable a firewall, have anti-malware installed and up-to-date, etc. It also quite common for a home user of a BYOD to automatically have full admin privileges on a device they own. However, this is not acceptable as part of CE and the user should have a separate login that does not have permission to install programs or change the configuration of the device. In other words, your home user device will need two accounts one for daily use and one just for admin tasks.

 

3. Clarifications on Internet Boundaries and Software Firewalls.

“A boundary firewall is a network device which can restrict the inbound and outbound network traffic to services on its network of computers and mobile devices. It can help protect against cyber-attacks by implementing restrictions, known as ‘firewall rules’, which can allow or block traffic according to its source, destination and type of communication protocol. Alternatively, where an organisation does not control the network that a device is connected to, a host-based firewall must be configured on a device. This works in the same way as a boundary firewall but only protects the single device on which it is configured. This approach can provide for more tailored rules and means that the rules apply to the device wherever it is used. However, this increases the administrative overhead of managing firewall rules.”

Our thoughts…

Firewalls are found where your device connects to a network, whether that’s from your computer, server, or from your connection to the internet via a router (which sometimes have an integrated firewall). Corporate networks normally have a separate device called a Firewall to protect and monitor traffic in and out of its network.

If you have employees that work from home, or remotely, and do not connect to the corporate network using a corporate VPN, then they must rely on the Firewall installed on the device they are using. For example, a Windows laptop of MacBook.

 

4. ‘Patch management’ control changed to ‘Security update management’.

Security update management.

Our thoughts…

It was thought that the expression, ‘patch management’ was too technical and ambiguous. The goal is to ensure any updates are made available, especially if they contain a fix for a high or critical vulnerability. This should be done within 14 days of the update becoming available. However, it is advisable to apply updates immediately.

 

 

5. Updated security update management control.

The Applicant must keep all its software up to date. Software must be:

  • licensed and supported
  • removed from devices when no longer supported
  • have automatic updates enabled where possible
  • updated, including applying any manual configuration changes required to make the update effective, within 14 days* of an update being released, where:
  • the update fixes a vulnerability with a severity the product vendor describes as ‘critical’ or ‘high risk’
  • it has a severity the product vendor describes as ‘critical’ or ‘high risk’
  • there are no details of the vulnerability severity level the update fixes provided by the vendor.

For optimum security and ease of implementation it is strongly recommended (but not mandatory) that all released updates be applied within 14 days.

*It is important that these updates are applied as soon as possible. 14 days is seen as a reasonable period to be able to implement this requirement. Any longer would constitute a serious security risk while a shorter period may not be practical.

Information

If the vendor uses different terms to describe the severity of vulnerabilities, see the precise definition in the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). For the purposes of the Cyber Essentials scheme, ‘critical’ or ‘high risk’ vulnerabilities are those with the following values:

  • attack vector: network only
  • attack complexity: low only
  • privileges required: none only
  • user interaction: none only
  • exploit code maturity: functional or high
  • report confidence: confirmed or high

Caution

Some vendors release security updates for multiple issues with differing severity levels as a single update. If such an update covers any ‘critical’ or ‘high risk’ issues, then it must be installed within 14 days.

Our thoughts…

Updating the operating system and software is critical as it dramatically reduces the risk of attackers gaining control of your device. Auto update features should always be on, where this feature is available. You still need to check and update all software you have installed on your devices to keep them as secure as they can be. This need to be managed so that released updates are installed within 14 days of release.

There are third party tools that can help with updating your devices, or even just to monitor and let you know when an update is required. At SupPortal, we use Qualys, which gives you full visibility of all the software you have installed and its version. You can also view reports detailing any vulnerabilities that exist on your devices. This can help you to manage and maintain your devices.

6. Third party accounts with access to the certifying organisation’s data and services has been added to User Access Control.

The Applicant must be in control of its user accounts and the access privileges granted to each user account that has access to the organisation’s data and services. Importantly, this includes accounts that third parties use for access (for example, device management or support services). It must also understand how user accounts authenticate and control the strength of that authentication. This means the Applicant must:

 

  • have a user account creation and approval process
  • authenticate users before granting access to applications or devices, using unique credentials (see Password-based authentication)
  • remove or disable user accounts when no longer required (when a user leaves the organisation or after a defined period of account inactivity, for example)
  • implement two-factor authentication, where available
  • use administrative accounts to perform administrative activities only (no emailing, web browsing or other standard user activities that may expose administrative privileges to avoidable risks)
  • remove or disable special access privileges when no longer required (when a member of staff changes role, for example)

Our thoughts…

Having a clearly defined policy that describes the process of keeping your network safe is crucial. Even if your IT is managed by a third party, they still need to comply to this policy. The policy should cover things like password strength and admin access. Users should only have access to what they need, and admin accounts should not be used for day-to-day work. Even the boss doesn’t need to have an admin account for daily use. Two-factor authentications should also be enabled where available and is a common feature of cloud services such as Office 365, G-suite, accounting packages, and banking.

Is there anything you need to do with the clarification changes to Cyber Essentials?

After the 26th April, all Cyber Essentials assessment questions reflect these changes. All questions are now worded differently, with some extra questions that help clarify the information.

Here at SupPortal, we are fully prepared for the new changes and can support you through the Cyber Essentials certification process. If you have any questions about Cyber Essentials, please do not hesitate to get in touch.