Resources: IT Security

What Is Phishing & How Are Hackers Using It?

While the number of people falling for sending personal information to the crown prince of Nigeria in hopes of receiving his promised wealth and riches seems to be dropping, phishing remains a major issue. In fact, the number of phishing campaigns pursued by hackers around the world increased 65% in the last year.

What exactly is phishing? Hackers mimic the emails, forms, and websites of legitimate companies in an effort to lure people into providing their private, personal information, like credit card numbers, social security information, account logins, and personal identifiers. The victim typically doesn’t realize they’ve been compromised until long after the event, and oftentimes only after their identity or finances are affected. In the past, an attack was carried out relatively quickly. As soon as the victim gave up their information, the hacker moved in and stole money from the compromised account. Today, it’s often more lucrative for hackers to sell that information on the Dark Web, resulting in longer-lasting and even more devastating attacks.

3 Types Of Phishing Attacks

Spear Phishing

Phishing attempts directed at specific individuals or companies have been termed spear phishing. Attackers may gather personal information about their target to increase their probability of success. This technique is by far the most successful on the Internet today, accounting for 91% of attacks.

Threat Group-4127 used spear phishing tactics to target email accounts linked to Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential campaign. They attacked more than 1,800 Google accounts and implemented accounts-google.com domain to threaten targeted users.

Clone Phishing

Clone phishing is a type of phishing attack whereby a legitimate and previously delivered email containing an attachment or link, has had its content and recipient address(es) taken and used to create an almost identical or cloned email. The attachment or link within the email is replaced with a malicious version and then sent from an email address spoofed to appear as though it came from the original sender. It may claim to be a resend of the original or an updated version to the original. This technique could be used to pivot (indirectly) from a previously infected machine and gain a foothold on another machine, by exploiting the social trust associated with the inferred connection due to both parties receiving the original email.

Whaling

Several phishing attacks have been directed specifically at senior executives and other high-profile targets within businesses. The term whaling has been coined for these kinds of attacks. In the case of whaling, the masquerading web page/email will take a more serious executive-level form. The content will be crafted to target an upper manager and the person’s role in the company. The content of a whaling attack email is often written as a legal subpoena, customer complaint, or executive issue. Whaling scam emails are designed to masquerade as a critical business email, sent from a legitimate business authority. The content is meant to be tailored for upper management, and usually involves some kind of falsified company-wide concern. Whaling phishers have also forged official-looking FBI subpoena emails and claimed that the manager needs to click a link and install special software to view the subpoena.

Have you ever gotten an email from your bank or medical office asking you to update your information online or confirm your username and password? Maybe a suspicious email from your boss asking you to execute a wire transfer. That is most likely a spear phishing attempt, and you’re among the 76% of businesses that were victims of a phishing attack in the last year.

Method of Delivery

Phishing scams are not always received through email and hackers are getting trickier and trickier with their preferred method of execution. In 2017, officials caught onto attacks using SMS texting (smishing), Voice phishing (vishing) or social engineering, a method in which users can be encouraged to click on various kinds of unexpected content for a variety of technical and social reasons.

Ransomware: The Consequence

Phishing is the most widely used method for spreading ransomware, and has increased significantly since the birth of major ransomware viruses like Petya and Wannacry. Anyone can become a victim of phishing or in turn, ransomware attacks. However, hackers have begun targeting organizations that are more likely to pay the ransoms. Small businesses, education, government, and healthcare often, don’t have valid data backups. Therefore they are unable to roll back to a pre-ransomed version of their data. Instead, they have to pay their way out or cease to exist. Outside of ransom costs, victims of phishing campaigns are often branded as untrustworthy and many of their customers turn to their competitors, resulting in even greater financial loss.

Why are effective phishing campaigns so rampant despite public awareness from media coverage?

Volume: There are nearly 5 million new phishing sites created every month, according to Webroot Threat Report. There are now even Phishing as a Service companies, offering phishing attacks in exchange for payment. One Russian website, “Fake Game,” claims over 61,000 subscribers and 680,000 credentials stolen.

They work: Over 30% of phishing messages get opened, and 12% of targets click on the embedded attachments or links, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. In short, these hackers have gotten really good at looking really legitimate.

They’re simple to execute: New phishing campaigns and sites can be built by sophisticated hackers in a matter of minutes. While we think there are far more legitimate ways to be earning money, these individuals have made a living out of duplicating their successful campaigns.

Now that you have an understanding of what phishing is, our next two blogs will teach you How to Spot a Phishing Attack, and Fixing Your Weakest Link: Your Employees.

Who’s stealing all the bandwidth?

Click…wait. Click…wait. Click…ARGH! Sounds like someone is running out of bandwidth.

What is bandwidth?

Bandwidth is a lot like plumbing. The bigger the pipes, the more water can flow through. Similarly, the more bandwidth you have, the more data you can send or receive at any given time. An internet connection with a larger bandwidth can move a set amount of data (say, a video file) much faster than an internet connection with a lower bandwidth. However, be aware that with greater bandwidth comes greater cost and responsibility.

Is someone or something taking your bandwidth?

Our dedicated team of experts has put together a list for you to help you determine who/what’s stealing all the bandwidth? Don’t fall victim to these bandwidth bandits!

Who’s stealing all the bandwidth?

Not so long ago, it would have been ridiculous to ask an employer to give you free TV, free movies, free music and a free TV camera and crew at your house in case you wanted to work from home and conduct a meeting with coworkers. Yet, with the internet, all of these things and more are at the fingertips of most office employees and their remote counterparts. Naturally, a growing number of employees will use some or all of these services for personal use while under your roof and on the clock wasting your valuable bandwidth.

Many employees use much more bandwidth than necessary to do their jobs. As a business owner, what can you do about it? First of all, you’ve got to let your employees know that bandwidth is more than a commodity. Just like electricity, water, and leasing building space, bandwidth is a necessary expense you need to keep your business running. But unlike all the other expenses, the amount of bandwidth you truly need varies based on the workload and what you allow. It can be overused by employees who stream videos, stream music or play video games between completing company tasks. So, what are the most abused “Bandwidth Bandits”? Let’s take a look.

VIDEO:

Does your company upload or store video content on a daily basis? Many companies do these days, especially for marketing and training purposes. In addition to these, what about the videos that are being watched inbetween company projects? Viewing TV shows or movies online uses about 1 GB of data per hour for standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for HD video. Downloading and streaming consume about the same amount of data. Since just about everything online is HD quality, you can see that those streaming and storing video content are usually the guiltiest bandwidth abusers in your office.

WI-FI:

Everything that is available to your employees through their internet connection is available through Wi-Fi. The extra strains Wi-Fi puts on bandwidth are caused by the users who connect their phones to Wi-Fi so they can save on their personal data plan. At no extra cost to them, they can stream video and surf online on their phones. Some people even use their phones to play video games while on (or off) their lunch breaks. Just being connected puts a small drain on your Wi-Fi, but all the rest can slow your network down to a crawl.

THE CLOUD:

Using the Cloud adds a lot of flexibility to your business. The scalability allows you to tailor your bandwidth needs as your company’s needs grow or shrink, but the amount of bandwidth usage varies as more and more files and programs are shared through the Cloud. With subscription-based software programs becoming the norm, there’s data floating in and out of your employee’s workstations all day. If you use heavy-hitting data drainers like HD video files that are shared between two or more employees, your Cloud gets weighed down fairly quickly. If not monitored properly, excess data usage through the Cloud can clog your system like hair in a bathtub drain.

VIDEO CONFERENCING:

Whether you’re working from home, meeting with clients, or even interviewing potential new employees, video conferencing is definitely a tool that makes good business sense. Many business trips have been replaced by video conferencing, and that’s good for your budget. But now you’re sending that information through your internet connection which needs to be factored into your bandwidth needs. The good news is that video conferencing costs a lot less than travel, so spending a little more on bandwidth is probably the most cost-effective way to meet with people one-on-one.

STREAMING MUSIC:

Many people enjoy listening to music while at work, and if the company allows it, then it’s no big deal. Right? Well, mostly right. Problems may arise when the streaming music is left running 24 hours a day or multiple people are competing, blasting their own tunes. The more people stream music, the more it will cause a drain on your bandwidth. Even though music streams at a low data rate, some services allow users to store their music files on the Cloud, and that causes a bump in the data flow. Accessing personal music files and streaming internet radio may not take up too much bandwidth, but the number of employees who are constantly listening to music adds up. If most of your employees listen to streaming music, then data usage should be monitored.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Humans are social creatures and they search out ways to stay connected to people they are close to. Social media gives us many ways to stay in touch with others, but in the office, that comes at a price. When business owners calculate the bandwidth requirements for start-ups, they often don’t factor in their employee’s social media habits. Sure, most functions utilized through social media don’t use much data at all, but increasingly, video attachments are sent along with text messages. Even in a compressed state, video files are among the greediest bandwidth thieves.

As you can see, there are many ways your bandwidth is being used throughout the day and it can impact your business in a variety of ways. For example, just a few years ago, it was taboo for employees to spend time watching videos on YouTube or looking at pictures of their nephew’s graduation on Facebook during work hours. Today, it is generally accepted that employees will spend some time doing these things.

As a business owner, you can place limits or controls on these habits, but these actions may cost you in other ways. Employee morale is linked to online habits, and if employees can’t stay in touch with their friends on your time, they’ll probably take more breaks than they used to so they can wish Aunt Edna a happy birthday.

It’s a challenge to find a balance between the bandwidth your business needs and the bandwidth your employees need. As the one who writes the checks, it may not seem fair that you’re funding someone else’s online habits, but in today’s business arena, it’s the price of doing business. In the next blogs, we’ll show you how to rein in these data hogs all while maintaining positive company culture and avoiding mutiny.

How To Spot A Phishing Attack

Would you know if you were the subject of a phishing attack? Many people claim that they’d be able to tell right away if they received an email from an illegitimate source. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be 1.5 million new phishing websites every month. A 65% increase in attacks in one year! Hackers would have moved on to their next idea for swindling people out of their identities and money. How do you spot a phishing attack and avoid falling victim yourself?

Look for these red flags:

  • Sender Email Address: Always check to make sure that the email address is legitimate. Amateur hackers will send things from Gmail or Hotmail accounts and hope you don’t notice. More sophisticated hackers will closely mimic an actual email domain, like amazonprime.com rather than amazon.com. Double check the email address before responding, clicking, or opening, even if the from name appears correct.
  • Discrepancies in Writing Format: If the attack is coming from overseas, you’re likely to notice some small issues in writing format, like writing a date as 4th April, 2019 rather than April 4, 2019. While this is subtle, it should be a red flag.
  • Grammar Issues: We all fall victim to the occasional typo, but if you receive an email riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, consider the source. It’s likely from a hacker, especially if the email supposedly comes from a major organization.
  • Sender Name: This one is also difficult to track, but phishing emails will typically close with a very generic name to avoid raising suspicion. You should recognize the people that send you emails, or at the very least clearly understand their role at the organization.
  • Link Destination: Before you click on any link in an email be sure to hover over it. The destination URL should pop up. Check out the domain name of this URL. Similar to the sender email address, make sure that this address is legitimate before clicking.
  • Attachments: Is it realistic to expect an attachment from this sender? Rule of thumb, don’t open any attachment you don’t expect to receive, whether it’s a Zip file, PDF or otherwise. The payload for a ransomware attack often hides inside.
  • Email Design: A cooky font like Comic Sans should immediately raise red flags, especially if you don’t clearly recognize the sender.
  • Links to Verify Information: Never ever click on a link to verify information. Instead, if you think the information does need updating go directly to the website. Type in your email and password, and update your information from the Account tab. Always go directly to the source.

Odd Logo Use: Hackers try their best to mimic a websites’ look and feel. Oftentimes, they get very close; but they won’t be perfect. If something feels off, it probably is.

While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding falling victim to a phishing attack, knowing how to spot likely culprits is one step in the right direction. We’ll cover other protective measures to reduce your risk of falling victim to phishing attacks in our next blog.