Category: Security

Dark Web Marketplaces Are Selling Your RDP Credentials

Remote Desktop Protocol or more popularly known as “RDP” attacks have been the primary focus for attackers and hackers during the COVID-19 crisis because of the increased work from home (WFH) scenarios. RDP is a proprietary protocol, or a technical standard, developed by Microsoft that gives people remote access to a desktop computer by connecting to another machine or virtual apps through a network connection.

RDP credentials are being sold on dark web marketplaces for as low as $3. The credentials allow hackers and criminals to spy on companies without resorting to malware. The sale of RDP credentials is allowing attackers to retrieve data from firms in government, healthcare, retail, education, and other sectors.

Here’s everything you need to know to protect your confidential data.

Why Are Attackers Interested In It?

Hackers and attackers are aware of the fact that employees are spending their time working from home via remote access. This means that most organizations — both big and small — trust their confidential data to pass via RDP. While the proprietary protocol is reliable and effective, many IT companies fail to make security their priority.

When employees use easy passwords without multi-factor encryption and additional authentication layers, it becomes easier for attackers to use RDP to gain access to sensitive data. Besides, this opens the door for data breaches, espionage, and more. In forums on the dark web where RDP access credentials are being sold, merchants offer access to thousands of computers for as less as $3 for Windows XP to $9 for a Windows 10 system.

Attackers can gain access to a remote network with the correct password. Moreover, ransomware teams use this protocol to execute their attack, thereby promoting their status to admin, disabling the security software, and encrypting company networks.

A team of researchers at Flashpoint have been examining authentic criminal marketplaces that sell RDP data and have gained access to global networks up for sale.

One of the most popular underground forums selling access to such networks is ‘Ultimate Anonymity Services’. It offers over 35,000 RDP credentials for sale in different countries for a range of Windows Operating Systems (OS).

The group behind the store posts ads in Russian and English, and similar to most Eastern European-based operations, UAS doesn’t sell credentials of Russian accounts. The researchers found thousands of credentials in India, China, and Brazil for sale in the store. It mostly offered credentials for targets across the U.S., particularly around California, Virginia, and Ohio.

How Can You Make RDP More Secure?

The best way to protect your systems against this vulnerability is by using a blend of brute-force attack monitoring and dark web monitoring techniques. The former alerts the admin of failed login attempts, while the latter determines the employee login data that has already been sold online. However, to avoid vulnerabilities found in previous versions, it is crucial to ensure that the latest version of the protocol is being used.

Organizations can shift to Windows Virtual Desktop. Its robust management, inbuilt security, multi-session Windows 10 capability, and optimizations for Microsoft 365 apps makes it the perfect solution. On the other hand, OneDrive can also be installed to access files securely or for file-sharing purposes.

Other alternatives include a virtual private network (VPN) using MS Terminal Services Client. However, at the 2019 DEF CON hacking conference, the majority of security flaws in the most popular VPNs were revealed.

The Bottom Line

If your company is using RDP, you need to be in touch with cybersecurity professionals to ensure that your network has the highest level of security. Azure has some excellent inbuilt security options for Windows Virtual Desktop and is increasingly becoming the best choice for businesses to replace outdated and less secure RDPs. Secure remote network setups are available for businesses of all sizes — only if you know where to look.

Biometrics As-A-Service Allows For New Innovations, But At What Cost?

Biometrics as a Service: Innovation at a Cost

Modern technology and the internet have allowed businesses to provide virtually anything as a service. Everything-as-a-service is convenient for the customers and profits the enterprises, making it a trendy, feasible business model.

Biometrics is no exception. The application of analytics on biological data, biometrics is a trending vertex between technology and biology capable of identifying and verifying people. Biometric technologies such as fingerprint, retina, and facial scanners are already becoming a significant part of technology. From our phones to secure door locks, we see biometric technologies all around us.

However, companies today are selling biometric data to buyers, allowing businesses to track virtually any human they wish.

Biometrics as a Service is becoming a popular stream that’s home to countless innovations in the field of AI. But there are certain risks associated with BaaS that are a threat to your privacy.

In this post, we’re going to explore Biometrics as a Service, its advantages, its dangers, and the future of BaaS. Let’s begin!

What is Biometrics as a Service?

Biometric data such as fingerprint and retina scan are helping countless industries become more secure with reliable verification. As biometrics becomes alluring to an increasing number of businesses, Biometrics as a Service has become an alluring alternative to purchasing biometric technologies.

In a nutshell, Biometrics as a Service is a company that keeps records of everyone’s biometric data and maintain servers that run biometric software. This company leases the data and/or biometric software to other enterprises.

Taking advantage of cloud computing, companies can identify people using their biometrics without ever having to maintain their own biometric database and technologies!

The Benefits of BaaS

The main advantage of biometrics as a service is that businesses can quickly add and adapt to biometric data, software, and infrastructure with little investment of time and money.

A prevalent use case for BaaS is companies don’t have to keep any biometric database while they can easily verify the identity of employees and/or customers. They don’t require any software or infrastructure, and thereby no special biometric IT staff.

A more serious use case for BaaS is for the government and law enforcement agencies. Police can tie up with biometric service providers, using which they can simply upload a photo of the victim or a blood sample, and the biometric software can provide all the crucial details of the criminal.

The Dangers

While BaaS makes biometric data faster and easier to access, record, and maintain, there are serious privacy issues concerned with the same.

To begin with, promoting BaaS is also promoting the centralization of data. This means a single company has essential data of a lot of people in the world. In a world where data is empowering entire businesses, this can be dangerous.

Moreover, as an individual, you might not want to have your biometric data in the hands of a private organization. However, as BaaS becomes more prevalent and biometric companies gain access to your images on social media, your privacy becomes endangered.

Ultimately, BaaS without regulations will make you less valuable than your data. Any organization can get your biometric and other data and use it to manipulate your behaviour and influence your choices.

The Future of Biometrics as a Service

The market has grown by over 17% in 2020 and is predicted to grow more in the years to come. Given its important benefits and grave dangers, what does the future hold for BaaS?

At present, biometrics is almost entirely focused on market products such as phones and laptops that have fingerprint and facial recognition. However, law enforcement agencies such as American detective units in sex crimes are typing up with private companies such as Clearview AI to identify targets.

In the future, law enforcement will become much faster and easier thanks to biometric software and infrastructure made available as a service.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial that the governments worldwide set limitations to what a BaaS company can do with the sensitive data of its citizens.

BaaS must be limited to law enforcement and a select group of organizations; it needs to be kept away from private companies and malicious parties. As long as biometric data is kept away from unregulated third parties, BaaS can prove extremely useful for identity verification and tracing down convicts, amongst other applications.

But with the data in the wrong hands, BaaS will become an auction system where your sensitive data will be sold to companies that bid the most, making you less valuable than the data you produce.

Subject Lines That May Indicate a Spear-Phishing Attempt

By now, even those who aren’t regular users of email know not to open messages from Nigerian princes or other similar scams. However, hackers have morphed these scams into comprehensive and targeted campaigns that are both effective and extremely hard to stop.

Phishing attempts via email or messages are one of the most common security challenges that both organizations and people face in keeping their information confidential and secure. Whether it’s getting access to credit or debit cards, phone numbers, passwords, or other confidential data, hackers use email and other communication platforms to steal sensitive data. Organizations, of course, are a valuable target.

Spear phishing, on the other hand, involves sending emails to particular and well-researched targets while claiming to be a trusted sender.

The hackers intend to infect devices with malware or convince targeted people to hand over sensitive data or money.

Traditional spear-phishing campaigns either consists of infected files attached to the email or a malicious zip file. Now, bad actors have more sophisticated methods. Many infected documents are now housed on genuine websites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or OneDrive, as bad actors are aware these sites are unlikely to be blocked by the IT department.

London Blue, the Nigerian criminal group, had previously gathered information on CFOs and other financial institutions through commercial lead generation sites. Social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn provide other significant data, including a person’s professional relationship within a company, and are hence helpful sources for hackers to figure out the best target and impersonation. Official websites might provide insights into technology, operations, and suppliers, while Facebook and Instagram likes might provide insight into potential targets.

After studying around 360,000 phishing emails for three months, a team of researchers at Barracuda Networks have narrowed the list down to the most common subject lines used in spear-phishing attacks. These lines often have the most successful bait for reeling in targets.

Barracuda Network’s spear-phishing report suggested that the most common subject line used in attacks is ‘Request’ — which leads to more than one-third of all the phishing messages analyzed. ‘Follow up’ and ‘Urgent/Important’ stood next in the subject line.

The basic idea behind spear-phishing attacks is to make potential targets think they need to urgently open and respond to an email, especially when the email was designed to look as if it was sent from one of their team members or their boss. This would lead to the victim answering the email immediately, without thinking.

Given below are some of the most common subject lines based on the analysis by Barracuda Networks:

  1. Request
  2. Follow up
  3. Important/ Urgent
  4. Hello
  5. Are you available? / Are you at your desk?
  6. Payroll
  7. Payment Status
  8. Invoice Due
  9. Expenses
  10. Re:
  11. Purchase
  12. Direct Deposit

Threat actors use the ‘Are you at your desk?’ subject line to convince their target to open the email. Additionally, subject lines suggesting that the email is a part of the previous conversation are also designed to trick the victim into trusting the sender, thereby propelling them to respond to the email.

A majority of the subject lines have finance and payments backgrounds. If the victim thinks that they risk losing money if they don’t respond, they’re more likely to jump into it. The same goes for emails related to finance and payments. A person might think it’d be bad for their professional relationship if they don’t pay up, especially if the request comes from their senior or boss.

The Bottom Line

To avoid falling victim to spear-phishing attacks, cybersecurity specialists recommend implementing the DMARC authentication protocol to avoid domain spoofing. Additionally, users are suggested to deploy multi-factor authentication that provides an extra layer of protection. These protocols should be implemented alongside a security software and user training.

Why Work From Home Has Prompted A New Wave Of RDP-Based Hacks

The surge in RDP-Based Attacks

The number of cyber-attacks on Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) servers has expanded amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as a significant number of employees are currently working from home.

To remotely get to Windows workstations and servers, companies have been depending on RDP servers which is Microsoft’s exclusive protocol. As a result, there has been an expansion in brute-force attacks, with hackers taking advantage of the pandemic to attack corporate assets accessible to remote workers.

The number of RDP ports exposed to the web increased from around 3,000,000 in January 2020 to more than four and a half million in March, McAfee found after running various searches. In these assaults, the cybercriminals are trying to penetrate the RDP protocol by attempting all possible credential combinations until they hit the right one. Analysts explained searches for username, and password mixtures depend on random characters or famous or compromised passwords.

How to prevent RDP-based Hacks?

First, exposing RDP directly to the internet is not the best security practice. Slow patching can generally allow vulnerable servers to be compromised through an RDP attack. RDP should only be available after first connecting to the companies VPN.

Final Thoughts

The speed that everyone went into lockdown due to Covid-19 along with the necessity to keep business moving resulted in some shortcuts taken, which compromised security. Setting up Remote Desktop without a corporate VPN to connect to first or an RDP Gateway is a recipe for disaster, and it’s only a matter of time before the network is compromised.

There’s never been a better time to enable 2FA

The Australian Government is currently aware of a sustained targeting of Australian companies by a sophisticated state-based actor.

Whilst web server and the like are a primary target there also has been spearphishing attacks on companies. This spearphishing has taken the form of:

  • links to credential harvesting websites
  • emails with links to malicious files, or with the malicious file directly attached
  • links prompting users to grant Office 365 OAuth tokens to the actor
  • use of email tracking services to identify the email opening and lure click-through events.

Once initial access is achieved, the actor utilised a mixture of open source and custom tools to persist on, and interact with, the victim network. Although tools are placed on the network, the actor migrates to legitimate remote accesses using stolen credentials. To successfully respond to a related compromise, all accesses must be identified and removed.

Now is a good time to ensure that all your company email accounts have Two Factor Authentication enabled.  In the event that you accidentally click on a suspicious link and then enter in your username and password, the secondary authentication will reduce the likelihood of the attacker gaining access to your email account.

More information can be found on the ACSC website

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