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Cyber Security

Protecting your Organization from Emotet and the Omnatuor Malvertising Network



Written by Mohammed Al-Moneer, Regional Director, META at Infoblox

In the last edition of our Quarterly Cyber Threat Intelligence Report, Infoblox brings into focus and provides insights into two major cyber threats that organizations should be aware of – Emotet and Omnatuor Malvertising Network.

Emotet is a notorious malware family that has evolved significantly over the years: from a simple banking trojan to a botnet to an infrastructure for content delivery. Infoblox has been monitoring Emotet and providing insights into its activity all along. Emotet has been around since 2014. It survived its January 2021 takedown by law enforcement agencies from the Netherlands, UK, and US and from Germany, France, Lithuania, Canada, and Ukraine. During the takedown, Emotet was offline for 11 months.

The frequency of Emotet-related malspam campaigns increased from January to May 2022 as the malware authors changed techniques to evade Microsoft’s increasing countermeasures on VBA Macro security. The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics was attacked on 12 June 2022, and recent reports put Emotet back at the top of the list of malware families with an impact that spans the globe. A consistent feature of Emotet has been its use of email as a delivery vector. Microsoft Office documents have been the attachments of choice, and Excel files have been the most prevalent of these documents.

Infoblox’s analysis indicates that the actors behind Emotet have made some attempts to protect the network from further takedowns. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the use of compromised websites and of email as a delivery vector has persisted, and this has enabled us to reliably identify and track Emotet’s activity. Infoblox’s view of the threat landscape affords a detailed understanding of not only the current prevalence of Emotet in malspam, but also of the location and services used in its infrastructure.

As our company continues to research and monitor Emotet’s behavior, it will provide protection by denying access to the compromised domains used to host the Emotet payload, and it will offer vital, actionable intelligence on Emotet’s C&C infrastructure.

We recommend the following actions for protection from this kind of attack:

  • To mitigate the risk of infection from known threats, keep security software up to
    date and patched.
  • Conduct security awareness training in the organization. It is important for
    everyone to be up to date with the latest techniques used by attackers to trick
    users who receive malicious emails.
  • Enhance network perimeter security. 99% of successful attacks involve some
    type of network communication. Having the right tools in place can help identify
    and minimize the impact of a threat like Emotet before they cause damage

For some time, the Infoblox Threat Intelligence Group has been tracking a malvertising network (the “Omnatuor Malvertising Network”) that not only abuses push notifications, pop-ups, and redirects within a browser but continues to serve ads even after the user navigates away from the initial page.

Omnatuor has been dismissed by the security community as adware, a label that implies the activity is largely a nuisance. This naive response underestimates the danger of the potential threat posed by malvertising in general, and the Omnatuor actor in particular. In addition to its ability to persist, the network delivers dangerous content.

The Omnatuor actor takes advantage of WordPress vulnerabilities and is effective at spreading riskware, spyware, and adware. It uses an extensive infrastructure and has a broad reach into networks across the globe. The Omnatuor domain has a suspiciously high breadth and query volumes.

An initial look into WHOIS data revealed the domain was created on 12 July 2021. Since being registered it was present in 45% to 48% of all customer networks and surpassed 50% at various times. Most networks contained tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of queries for the domain. From July 2021 to July 2022, we observed just over 25.4 million unique, resolved queries to omnatuor[.]com.

This campaign compromises vulnerable WordPress sites through embedded malicious JavaScript or PHP code. The code redirects users or otherwise forces them to view and click malvertisements via pop-ups and push notifications.

We recommend that users take the following preventive measures:

  • To assist in blocking known malvertising efforts, leverage the GitHub repository of indicators associated with the Omnatuor Malvertising Network.32 Infoblox offers a sample of indicators in this article and will continue to update the GitHub repository as new indicators are discovered.
  • Use an adblocker program, such as UBlock Origin. The adware is delivered via an inline script, and blocking only the domains and IP addresses at a firewall or DNS level will not stop push notifications, redirects, or pop-ups. Because the DNS query cannot be completed, the contents of those vectors will not load; however, the browsing experience will still be interrupted.
  • Disable JavaScript entirely, or use a web extension (such as NoScript) to enable JavaScript only on trusted sites.

Cyber Security

Databases Are the Black Boxes for Most Organisations



Nik Koutsoukos, the Vice President of SolarWinds, says databases represent the most difficult ecosystems to observe, tune, manage, and scale

Tell us about the SolarWinds database observability platform.
Nearly everything a modern business does from a digital perspective requires data. Thus, databases are among the enterprise’s most valuable IT assets. This makes it critical for organisations to ensure their databases are optimised for performance and cost.

That said, databases represent the most difficult ecosystems to observe, tune, manage, and scale. Not only are there different types of databases that serve different purposes, but they are also populated by different types of data, adding to their complexity. The implications of not having visibility into your databases can be anywhere from a costly annoyance to a significant issue that causes business service disruption. For example, most application performance issues, between 70% and 88%, are rooted in the database.

For this reason, databases have largely been seen as a black box for most organisations. You know what goes into it. And you know what comes out and how long that took. However, the complexities that occur within the black box of the database are harder to discern.

This is where the SolarWinds Database Observability comes in. This offering is built for the needs of the modern enterprise environment and helps ensure optimal performance by providing full, unified visibility and query-level workload monitoring across centralised, distributed, cloud-based, and on-premises databases. Organisations armed with SolarWinds Database Observability enhance their ability to understand database implications as new code is deployed, utilise real-time troubleshooting of database performance issues, and isolate unusual behaviour and potential issues within the database.

How does database observability help IT teams track and manage infrastructure, applications, and possible threats?
Database observability collects data about the performance, stability, and overall health of an organisation’s monitored databases to address and prevent issues, and provides deep database performance monitoring to drive speed, efficiency, and savings. With SolarWinds Observability — which supports MongoDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQL Server database instances — database performance, responsiveness, and error rate are conveniently displayed in dashboards.

Moreover, alerts can be configured to notify admins by email or other methods when user-defined thresholds are crossed. This allows them to identify and remedy issues before they can develop. By gaining insight into the activities taking place inside their database instances, teams can understand user experience as well as ensure systems can scale to meet demand.

What sort of enhancements has your observability platform received recently?
Just this November, we announced major enhancements in the Database Observability capability within our cloud-based SolarWinds Observability platform. SolarWinds Database Observability provides full visibility into open-source, cloud-enabled, and NoSQL databases to identify and address costly and critical threats to their systems and business. It is now possible to navigate across all of the samples collected globally, giving IT teams an empirical distribution of random samples, which resembles the main workload.

What factors according to you will drive the adoption of observability tools in the MEA region?
The Middle East, Türkiye, and Africa (META) are riding a wave of rampant digital transformation as organisations seek to remain competitive. According to IDC, digital transformation spending in the Middle East will accelerate at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% over the five-year period, topping US$74 billion in 2026 and accounting for 43.2% of all ICT investments made that year. As organisations continue to shift workloads to multi- and hybrid-cloud environments, the complexity of their IT environments still continues to increase. This raises the potential for visibility and monitoring gaps which ultimately translate to underwhelming or outright frustrating experiences for end users.

Tell us about the top three trends you foresee for 2024.
There are clear signs of the continued adoption of cloud technologies to allow enterprises to become more agile, giving engineering teams the ability to focus on their core competencies and expand and contract on demand.

The adoption of Kubernetes is also increasing as the refocusing introduced by the cloud enables the move to microservices-based architectures which require sophisticated orchestration management.

Finally, we are starting to see an uptick in Vector databases, as applications demand better handling of relationships between data points.

What is going to be your top priority in terms of strategies for 2024?
We will continue to deliver on our vision of making observability easy. OpenTelemetry is driving observability, but data collection is nothing if it can’t provide insights. So, we aim to ensure the data is both collected and curated such that users find it easy to consume and extract valuable insight.

Regionally, through 2024, we will continue to focus on our key markets of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the ongoing enhancement of our product portfolio, and the strengthening of our channel ecosystem to create more markets for our business and for our partners.

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Cyber Security

ManageEngine Intros Enhanced SIEM with Dual-Layered System for Better Precision in Threat Detection



ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho Corporation, today unveiled the industry’s first dual-layered threat detection system in its security information and event management (SIEM) solution, Log360. The new feature, available in Log360’s threat detection, investigation and response (TDIR) component, Vigil IQ, empowers security operations centre (SOC) teams in organizations with improved accuracy and enhanced precision in threat detection.

A quality SOC ensures people, processes, and cutting-edge technology function well. However, enterprise security is made difficult by staffing shortages and solution orchestration complexities. Following recent upgrades to the security analytics module of Log360 designed to facilitate SOC optimization through key performance metric monitoring, the company has focused on addressing pressing challenges in security operations.

“In a recent ManageEngine study, a majority of respondents revealed that their SOCs are understaffed. These resource-constrained SOCs grapple with significant obstacles, such as process silos and manual investigation of alerts, which are often non-threats, low-priority issues or false positives. These lead to extended detection and response times for actual threats. To overcome these challenges, we recognize the imperative adoption of AI & ML for contextual event enrichment and rewiring threat detection logic,” said Manikandan Thangaraj, vice president at ManageEngine.

“We pioneered a dual-layered, ML approach to heighten the precision and consistency of threat detection. First, Vigil IQ ensures genuine threats are discerned from false positives. Second, the system facilitates targeted threat identification and response. This advanced system significantly improves the accuracy of identifying threats, streamlining the detection process and allowing SOC analysts to focus their valuable time on investigating real threats.”

Key Features of the Dual-Layered Threat Detection System of Vigil IQ in Log360:
Smart Alerts: Vigil IQ, the TDIR module of Log360, now combines the power of both accuracy and precision in threat detection. With its dynamic learning capability, Vigil IQ adapts to the changing nature of network behaviour to cover more threat instances accurately. It will spot threats that get overlooked due to manual threshold settings, thereby improving the detection system’s reliability.

Proactive Predictive Analytics: Leveraging predictive analytics based on historical data patterns, Vigil IQ predicts potential security threats, facilitating the implementation of proactive measures before incidents occur. This predictive intelligence drastically reduces the mean time to detect (MTTD) threats.

Contextual Intelligence: Vigil IQ enriches alerts with deep contextual information, providing security analysts with comprehensive threat insights. This enrichment of alerts with non-event context accelerates the mean time to respond (MTTR) by delivering pertinent, precise information.

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Cyber Security

Cybersecurity on a Budget: Affordable Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Businesses



According to a survey by Statista, typically, global enterprises dedicate a minimum of 12% of their IT expenditure to information security measures. While larger companies can afford to spend a lot on building a robust cybersecurity strategy, smaller businesses cannot. So, let’s explore some affordable cybersecurity strategies for small businesses that may cost less but have a greater impact.

Train your employees
An article from Forbes found that, annually, 34% of businesses worldwide encounter incidents involving insider attacks. Whether intentional or unintentional, employees tend to be the reason for most data breaches. Per the same article, phishing emails account for 67% of accidental insider attacks.

Phishing attacks mostly instil a sense of urgency in the victim, making it harder for them to think clearly before making a decision. For example, employees may click an email announcement about a bonus that actually came from a malicious outsider impersonating your company’s CEO.

To avoid such mistakes, it’s imperative to train employees on the types of phishing attacks and the ways to identify them. Even going as far as sending a mock phishing email occasionally to test their instincts and educate them can go a long way.

Assess your vulnerabilities
One of the most important cybersecurity strategies is to assess all your risk points by periodically reviewing all your business processes. Pay more attention to teams that deal with a lot of customer data. For instance, sales and marketing teams may handle customer data on a day-to-day basis, so they are at high risk of leaking or mishandling data. Assess their daily activities, create a record of all the risk points, and find ways to mitigate them.

Encrypt your data
Encrypting your data can be an effective method to protect it in case of data leaks. Let’s say a hacker gets hold of your company’s data, but it’s encrypted. Unless the hacker gets the encryption key from you, they cannot access your company’s data. This adds another layer of protection in addition to the everyday cybersecurity best practices that you should be following in your company. So make it a point to encrypt all your data, especially sensitive and critical data.

Limit access to critical data
Not everyone requires access to all data. Try to limit access to critical and sensitive data to fewer employees by basing access on work duties or requiring approval for access, making it a multi-step process to access it. Additionally, periodically review who has access to what data to ensure there aren’t any misallocations of access.

Secure your Wi-Fi
A secure network will reduce the chances of a hack or unauthorized access to your sensitive data. So switch your Wi-Fi to WPA2 or later, as it offers more security. Your business might already be using it, but it’s best to be sure. Additionally, change the name of your SSID and have a strong pre-shared key to keep your Wi-Fi safe from hackers.

Prevent physical theft
Through April 2023, there were 3,785 robberies in London, and 1,765 were of mobile phones. This highlights how important it is to secure your physical assets, as they might contain critical and sensitive information about your organization.

Here are some ways to protect your physical assets, such as PCs, laptops, scanners, and printers:

  1. Restrict unauthorized access to assets.
  2. Install a physical tracker on all devices to track down lost items.
  3. Enable remote wiping of data to erase information if a device is lost.

Cybersecurity strategies are seldom drafted with affordability in mind. However, it is crucial to consider them from a financial perspective, as small businesses are also increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks. These tips can help you take the first step toward creating a secure IT environment. Learn more about cybersecurity solutions for your business.

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