Coronavirus Spreads to Infosec
Cybercriminals utilize anxiety, fear and a lack of understanding in order to engineer the environments in which people start making predictably bad security decisions. Spear phishing attacks target unsuspecting members of organizations into thinking they need to urgently click something in an email that unleashes a payload or grabs login credentials. Victims are engineered to trust the alleged sender, or sometimes they fear the consequences of ignoring a big opportunity! This is a fundamental attack vector that infosec professionals combat every day, but the COVID-19 Coronavirus introduces a valuable new angle to the attack: fear of the unknown.
With companies like Google telling their employees to work from home, there will almost definitely be a cascade of big businesses pushing for as much remote work as possible – driving up the stock value of Zoom video conferencing software amid an otherwise nasty, global sell-off. This is a great step toward establishing a more nimble, decentralized workforce, but it also sets up the dominos for lots of insecure systems to be connecting improperly to company servers, and that opens up a wealth of new exploits!
But the virus itself is also a juicy social engineering attack vector.
This week, threat actors have begun to exploit the fear of the virus to spread the seeds of cybercrime with threats ranging from coronavirus-themed malware attacks, booby-trapped URLs and credential stuffing scams. Two malware campaigns connected to the coronavirus have been discovered in the wild, just this week.
The first is a phishing email targeted to spread Remcos RAT and malware payloads. The message has an attached PDF offering coronavirus safety measures, according to research from ZLab-Yoroi Cybaze. Instead of safety measures, the PDF, named “CoronaVirusSafetyMeasures_pdf,” includes executables for a Remcos RAT dropper that runs with a VBS file executing the malware.
The email attack showed a high level of sophistication in its ability to avoid detection by common firewalls, ZLab-Yoroi Cybaze researchers observed in a post on the threat, stating: “It established a TLS protected connection to a file sharing platform named ‘share.]dmca.]gripe,’ possibly to avoid reputation warnings raised by next-gen firewalls.”
Victims are prompted to download the file, which then installs two executable files in the system directory on the victim’s computer. A VBScript then becomes the springboard to run the executables across the system.
Another new email campaign reported by the MalwareHunterTeam includes a coronavirus-themed Microsoft Office document allegedly sent from the “Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.” Along with offering legitimate information, the document contains malicious macros that install a backdoor to allow keylogging, clipboard stealing and the ability to take screenshots from a victim’s computer.
According to some researchers’ estimates, there have been over 4,000 coronavirus-related domains registered globally in the last three months with 3-8% assumed to be malicious or suspicious, and they are being used to add a sense of legitimacy to multifaceted phishing attempts.
Researchers at Cofense, said they observed a new phishing attack based on fake messages from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stating that the coronavirus has “officially become airborne” and there “have been confirmed cases of the disease in your location.”
The email contains a phishing kit that asks recipients to click a link that appears to navigate to the CDC’s website to learn more about the local coronavirus threat.
Behind the link is a series of malicious redirects used by attackers that take victims to one of several SSL-certified, top-level domains where users will be presented with a Microsoft login page. The recipient email address is appended within the URL, to automatically populate the login box with their account name. The user is prompted to provide their password, which will be sent to the malicious actor before redirecting the user to the legitimate CDC website.
With these sorts of opportunities to launch sophisticated attacks against unsuspecting employees that are working from home in a manner which is uncommon for their routine while being under the threat of a poorly misunderstood pandemic is a recipe for a large uptick in malicious attacks, and companies need to prepare their organizations for the new vectors.
Kaspersky has also issued their own findings about COVID-19 related email phishing attacks, stating: “The discovered malicious files were masked under the guise of .PDF, .MP4, .DOC files about the coronavirus,” researchers said in a statement released to Threatpost. “The names of files imply that they contain video instructions on how to protect yourself from the virus, updates on the threat and even virus-detection procedures, which is not actually the case.”
The files contain a litany of security threats, including trojans and worms that are “capable of destroying, blocking, modifying or copying data, and interfering with the operation of computers or networks,” according to the firm. So far, ten different documents have been observed circulating.
“As people continue to be worried for their health, we may see more and more malware hidden inside fake documents about the coronavirus being spread,” wrote Anton Ivanov, Kaspersky malware analyst.
So how can you avoid falling victim to these scam attempts? GoVanguard recommends that all companies be extra cautious with emails and files received from unknown, but official sounding senders, especially if they prompt for actions and credentials. Do NOT to click on ads or promotional links in emails. Instead, Google your desired retailer and click the link from the Google results page. Beware of “special” offers. “An exclusive cure for Coronavirus” is not ever going to be emailed to you. Beware of look–a–like domains, spelling errors in emails or websites, and unfamiliar email senders.
At GoVanguard, we recommend a systematic approach to information security. Carefully and simply implemented security protocols can minimize the risk of exposure to data breaches and the penalties the proceed them. In order to successfully navigate data security protocols during thi period of global pandemic, compliance protocols must be in place. That is why we have a rigorous cybersecurity risk assessment and program implementation regimen in place!
Reach out to us today and see how easy it is take control of your security and keep your data secure.