Upgrade to Microsoft Defender ATP.

The endpoint security market is crowded with competition. From Kaspersky to AVG, or McAfee and Norton/Symantec products, there is an entire industry built to suit consumer, prosumer and enterprise markets. As we look into enterprise solutions, Carbon Black, CrowdStrike, Sophos and a few other players make a good case for themselves, but Microsoft has been investing heavily in their security (over $1 billion per year) and has taken the lead with their flagship endpoint detection and response (EDR) tool “Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection” (MDATP): the business implementation of Microsoft Defender.

Microsoft Defender ATP Licensing

MDATP premiered two years ago, but the licensing has always been a point of confusion for many businesses. Until just recently, the only way to get MDATP was a pricey bundled SKU (Microsoft 365 E5 $57/user/month, Windows 10 E5 $11/user/month) or an add-on license (Microsoft 365 E5 Security $12/user/month) that required you to have Microsoft 365 E3 or Office 365 E5 licenses. While these bundled SKUs are a great value for businesses that need the included services, those only interested in MDATP found licensing too complex and often too expensive.

Licensing MDATP just got a whole lot easier as the standalone SKU launched in March for CSPs and Enterprise licensing. MDATP standalone is $5.20 per month, per user on up to five devices or per server. The value is impossible to beat for the quality of the tool, the tightly integrated ecosystem and the added value afforded by the intelligence component of the dashboard. Compared to the industry standard, which is often licensed by endpoint, Microsoft has priced the software per user in order to differentiate and bring immense value to their clientele in the increasingly complex world of antivirus (AV) and EDR. In companies that have an increasingly complex, diverse and connected workforce, this is potentially a huge cost savings over competitors. If you were on the fence before, perhaps it's time to take another look at Microsoft Defender ATP.

 

But Why Choose Enterprise Advanced EDR Tools At All?  

Microsoft Defender ATPThe most important thing to understand about modern AV software is that malware has evolved aggressively over the last decade, but the approach to securing against their attacks has advanced much more slowly. As such, most products balance speed, security and other performance metrics in order to sell the perceived value of security while not really securing users’ systems against advanced threats. Common antivirus solutions are efficient at detecting malicious files on disks, for example, but over the years, more sophisticated threat actors have adapted. In order to successfully deploy malware, threat actors have made wider use of “fileless” malware in order to circumvent traditional AV protection. These advanced payloads run directly in memory without ever dropping an executable file on the disk. 

Since no malware file touched the hard drive, there was not ever a signature on the disk – which is what traditional AV software is scanning for. As a result, even with up-to-date, consumer-grade AV software, these more sophisticated malware attacks remain completely undetected. This is unforgivable in today’s threat environment, and a problem solved by MDATP's active threat intelligence. 

 

Threat Intelligence 

What is more important than a reaction to an attack? On-going intelligence and proactive interception of threats. This is just one area where Microsoft Defender ATP shines by taking an active approach to monitoring systems. Rather than waiting for a threat to appear, the software proactively anticipates attacks by utilizing a wealth of forensic data it has acquired from decades of studying threat actors and their methods. Microsoft Defender ATP engages cloud look-ups to ensure the latest signature updates are considered, in order to anticipate new attacks. The cloud look-up will send suspicious files into secured detonation chambers where they are launched to simulate an attack in the cloud. If analysis identifies a program or file as malicious, the cloud signatures will be updated and made available immediately for all Microsoft Defender ATP clients – pushing them to all endpoints. 

In addition to this sandbox methodology, Microsoft Defender ATP will monitor the user, process and system behavior continuously across protected organizations using their cloud-based, proprietary machine learning technology. An often overlooked aspect of Microsoft’s strength in security is that the Windows Security Research Team benefits from being able to collect the intelligence of over one billion consumer endpoint versions of their antivirus engine and deploy it instantly to Microsoft Defender ATP users. And in this sense, Microsoft Defender ATP has truly become much more than just AV software. It is a globally postured, enterprise tested, cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) tool.   

Industry Comparison 

Flagship Information Technology researcher, Gartner, exists to produce actionable data to be used by consumers and enterprise. They are among the most respected names in the space. In 2019, they reviewed twenty competitors in the End Point Protection (EPP) space, and created a data quadrant to show how they stack up to one another. Microsoft Defender ATP led the pack in the “Leaders” category with the highest “Ability to Execute” among all the competitors. 

Gartner EDR Comparison

Gartner EDR Comparison

More Details 

A big part of the reason Microsoft Defender ATP scored so high on Gartner’s EPP report is the fact that the software covers so many things and takes such a proactive approach!  

  • Multi-layered protection: Microsoft Defender ATP provides multi-layered protection (built into the endpoint and cloud-powered) from file-based malware, malicious scripts, memory-based attacks, and other advanced threats 
  • Threat Analytics: Contextual threat reports provide SecOps with near real-time visibility on how threats impact their organizations 
  • A new approach to Threat and Vulnerability Management: Real-time discovery, prioritization based-on business context and dynamic threat landscape, and built-in remediation process speed up mitigation of vulnerabilities and misconfiguration 
  • Built-in, cloud-powered protections: Real-time threat detection and protection with built-in advanced capabilities protect against broad-scale and targeted attacks like phishing and malware campaigns 
  • Behavioral detections: Endpoint detection and response (EDR) sensor built into Windows 10 for deeper insights of kernel and memory, and leveraging broad reputation data for files, IPs, URLs, etc., derived from the rich portfolio of Microsoft security services 
  • “Deployment” is as easy as it gets by being built directly into the operating system. There is no agent to deploy, no delays or compatibility issues, and no additional performance overhead or conflicts with other products. No deployment and no on-premises infrastructure directly leads to lower TCO. 
  • Contain the threat: Dramatically reduces the risk by strengthening your defenses when potential threats are detected. Microsoft Defender ATP can automatically apply Conditional access to restrict the endpoint from accessing corporate data until the threat was remediated. 
  • Automated security: From alerts to remediation in minutes – at scale. Microsoft Defender ATP leverages AI to automatically investigate alerts, determine if a threat is active, what course of action to take, and then remediate complex threats in minutes. 
  • Secure Score: Watch your security score rise in the Microsoft Defender Security Center as you implement automated and recommended actions to protect both users and data. Microsoft Defender ATP not only tells you that you have a problem, but Microsoft Defender ATP also recommends how to solve it (and track the execution) with Secure ScoreVulnerability and configuration information provide weighted recommendations and actions to improve endpoint hardening and compare the current posture with the industry and global peers for benchmarking. 
  • Microsoft Threat Experts: Microsoft has your back — with Microsoft’s managed detection and response (MDR) service (called Microsoft Threat Experts), Microsoft supports customers’ incident response and alert analysis. Our automated threat hunting service helps ensure that potential threats don’t go unnoticed.  Source: Microsoft 

Unified EDR Across All Your Operating Systems, Microsoft Defender ATP Supported Operating Systems

Microsoft Defender ATP is one EDR solution that can cover all your endpoints, supporting the most common operating systems used in business at no additional cost. Native mobile device support for iOS and Android scheduled for release later this year. As per Microsoft's minimum system requirements, Microsoft Defender ATP will run natively on the following platforms:

Supported Windows versions
    • Windows 7 SP1 Enterprise
    • Windows 7 SP1 Pro
    • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
    • Windows 8.1 Pro
    • Windows 10, version 1607 or later
    • Windows server
      • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
      • Windows Server 2012 R2
      • Windows Server 2016
      • Windows Server, version 1803 or later
      • Windows Server 2019
Other supported operating systems
  • macOS (Mac OS X)
  • Linux (currently, Microsoft Defender ATP is only available in the Public Preview Edition for Linux)
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7+
    • CentOS Linux 7+
    • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS +
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 12+
    • Debian 9+
    • Oracle Enterprise Linux 7
Coming Soon (ETA 2020)
  • Android
  • iOS

 

The Business 

We have covered the topic of Microsoft’s entire Office Suite in the past, and we briefly discussed the Microsoft Defender ATP advantage when we published “PLEASE DON'T ZOOM ME!” 

Here, we will stress the importance of Microsoft Defender ATP, both as a complete integration and as a stand-alone product. Then, we will explain the value of having it deployed by a Tier 1 Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) and Microsoft Gold Partner such as GoVanguard 

Microsoft Vs Everyone Else

Just Use Microsoft!

First of all, Microsoft has long assumed that products like Microsoft Defender ATP make the most sense bundled into a platform – and it does in most cases – because businesses are utilizing the power of Word, Excel, Teams and the other tools on a daily basis in their current office environments. As such, it was bundled for an extra $11.00 – $57.00 per month (depending on various options) to existing clients with an E5 license through their CSP. However, due to popular demand and some of the increasing incentives provided to Microsoft CSP partners, Microsoft Defender ATP can now be licensed for under $6.00 per user account. And that is another crucial point. The pricing is not per workstation, device or other number of endpoints. Microsoft Defender ATP is available as low as $5.20 at the user account level, which means that it can sync across Windows and MacOS devices, Android and iOS with all of the above mentioned features deployed in 2020.  

It is important to understand that, outside of globally-sized clients on an enterprise scale, Microsoft does not have a direct sales model, and you have choices when it comes to choosing a CSP. GoVanguard is the highest rated and credentialed among all classes of Microsoft CSP standards, and we are a full time information security firm. At the forefront of cybersecurity, we spend our days developing open source security solutions, engaged in red team attack simulations for high value clients, consulting on progressive threat intelligence and contributing to valuable security projects in the open source community. 

Choosing GoVanguard as your Microsoft CSP to license your entire cloud productivity and security solution comes with special benefits because of our unique expertise. Advising on licenses and beneficial features is included as part of our CSP relationship and you get the added benefit of partnering with a security-centric firm that can assist in proactively mitigating common security threats, as well as consult on a wealth of other security, infrastructure and platform parameters within your organization.

If you want to benefit from Microsoft Defender ATP or the any other part of the Microsoft 365 suite, please contact us today to discuss a trial. New to Microsoft? Get started with six months of E1 productivity for FREE!

 

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 this 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 to take control of your security and keep your data secure. 

Quick Tips for Secure Cloud Deployment

“Can we move this to the cloud?” This question will continue to increase in frequency for the foreseeable future, as we have seen IT exponentially converging toward cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) over the last several years. While some of the more popular names like DropBox, Salesforce and Google Drive dominate the consumer and “prosumer” branding space, there are more powerful tools like Microsoft Azure (which underpins Microsoft 365 Office Suite and much more) that are increasing in market share for small business and enterprise. 

When your company transitions to a SaaS model, it will be important to consider the security risks since the cloud deployment is at the top of the stack and most typically managed and secured by a third party cloud service provider (CSP). So what is an IT manager or CTO to do? Cloud computing and storage has immense benefits, but how does one vet the various risks and choose the right SaaS solution?

A cloud security checklist!  

  • Evaluate Your Data: Paramount to everything else, IT and security staff must determine what type of data will be stored to the cloud and perform a risk assessment against it. How valuable is the data? What happens if it is lost or stolen? If it is inaccessible for hours/days/weeks what are the specific consequences to the business? As part of this assessment, it is also important to understand and assess the business continuity and disaster remediation practices of the SaaS provider. How long will your company be holding redundant data in house until the SaaS solution is trusted entirely?
  • Ask About Encryption: Know how securely the data is transmitted to the cloud. Is it encrypted during transmission and while stored? Many people will take this for granted, because most data would be transmitted securely by default, but it is important to know the risks and the procedures while taking extra precautions based on your own company’s potential edge cases. 
  • Consider Redundancy: Verify that the data in the SaaS environment is being backed up. How much redundancy exists? What are the provider’s data retention procedures? What are the procedures or fees for extracting data? 
  • Triple Check and Be Prepared: Since your company will not be managing the connectivity, storage, or the applications once they have been deployed to the cloud, it is crucial to understand how the SaaS application is running. Be sure to understand the intimate details of segmentation, resource allocation and security. Depending on your choice of provider and your budget, as well as the provider’s service packages, it may be possible to save money if you do not have to make any changes once deployment has been deployed. This is an opportunity to benefit in the long term by doing sufficient research up front. 
  • Ask About Ongoing Security: Make sure that the data transmission and storage is compliant with modern security standards. Discuss what monitoring the provider has in place, and make sure the client-facing interface supports things like 2FA as a standard practice. Are the submitting themselves to regular penetration testing? What are their internal remediation protocols? 
  • What About Passwords and Authentication? Review the type of authentication that is being used by the SaaS. Credentials, if compromised, could allow access to your corporate network, or other data if not properly segregated. So, make sure that authentication data is not shared between internal systems and the SaaS deployment. Also, as a general practice, make sure that all passwords used to log into the SaaS environment (and everywhere else) are unique, complex and have a lockout feature enabled.
  • Work With a Trusted Partner! While there are a million buzzwords and protocols that can be thrown around in a SaaS sales pitch, the thing that actually matters most is the cloud service provider itself. Nobody can be an expert in running their own business while also being an IT, cloud computing, storage and security expert. Make sure you choose a CSP that has the proper credentials and experience to manage your cloud SaaS environment effectively. 

Choose GoVanguard. A Microsoft Gold Partner and Tier 1 CSP. We offer service and deployment of the entire suite of Microsoft’s offering: powerful, elastic, cost-effective and featuring world class security standards. All Microsoft tools integrate with Office 365, Teams, Defender ATP and the glue that holds it all together: Microsoft Azure. Prices for the entire Microsoft Suite start in the $5.00 range per month. Contact Us to get started.  

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 this 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 to take control of your security and keep your data secure. 

Please Don't Zoom Me!  

The COVID-19 quarantine era will be remembered for a handful of interesting themes. After bat soup and face masks in bank lobbies, the meteoric rise of Zoom as the video conferencing app of choice will be long remembered for “Zoom Bombing” and as a gateway for much more problematic malicious attacks. While the software might be good enough for some home usersit is completely unacceptable for institutions and enterprise use.  

In just the last few weeks, Zoom has been found to have multiple zero day exploits allowing root access, an ID numbering scheme that can be easily brute forced with a repurposed “War Dialing” attack and a whole host of other unpatched exploits. While some of these things have been patched in recent updates, the fallout has been terrible with private videos leaked to TikTok and critical data shared across the internet. Respected infosec personality, Arvind Narayanan, has been so blunt as to say “Let’s make this simple: zoom is malware.”  

While there has been a campaign of damnation against the popular video conferencing platform, Zoom and its problems are only a small part of a bigger issue. No business should be using a patchwork of apps for their needs. The massive uptick of employees and students working from home has just shined a light on the problem! Dropbox for file sharingZoom for conferencing, Slack for collaboration, and G-Suite for word processing and spreadsheets… And all of that on top of chains of emails between colleaguesThe hodgepodge approach to business workflow software is confusing for users, and it is simultaneously a productivity, security and compliance nightmare. Each platform has its own update schedule as well as the potential for each piece of the puzzle having its own exploits that compound on each other, and most businesses don’t have licensing, know-how, or the IT and security staff to centrally manage user systems.  

So What Can Be Done?  

As a Tier 1 Microsoft CSP, we recommend taking a giant step away from the mosaic of apps out in the wild to consolidate everything into the only secure, enterprise-ready eco-system that can handle all document processing, cloud storage, team collaboration, group calling, and global security compliance management inside of one platform. Microsoft Office 365 and the accompanying tools are often a less costly platform for businesses as well. Currently, the E1 Office365 Suite is being offered for free for six months including the extremely versatile “Teams” platform, which is why we are strongly recommending the Microsoft suite of services right now 

What is Teams?  

In short, Teams is like Zoom, except that it has enterprise quality security and integrations with the most universal productivity apps in the world. On top of ISO 27001, HIPPA and SOC 2 security compliance, Teams adds in a user-friendly shared workspace for remote workers to communicate and make creative decisions together!  

This Includes world class implementations of the following: 

  • Threaded ChatWhile parts of a conversation can stay in the main thread, specific topics can be threaded.  
  • Channels: The most common topics or company verticals can be turned into collaborative channels. Both threads, channels and all chat functions give users the ability to delegate with the “@” command.  
  • Collaborative Documents: Using Sharepoint, documents can be created in Word, Excel or other applications and shared into Teams where other users can leave notes or collaborate on changes.  
  • Video Conferencing: One of the most valuable ways to collaborate is via group video conferencing with screen share for thousands of users and integrated chat, note-taking and photo/file display for desktop and mobile users.  

 With calendar integration, appointments and global integration, Teams is more like a combination of Slack, Zoom, Hangouts and GoToMeeting with the added benefit of never having to leave the overall Office 365 Teams ecosystem. In fact, a decentralized workforce could manage a large portion of their entire collaborative workflow without ever leaving the Teams environment at all. It is truly the backbone of the Office365 Suite, and it is the closest thing to working in a “real” office for those who work exclusively from remote locations.  

Teams Events 

Another feature of Microsoft Teams is its use as a presentation tool. Rather than having a meeting with open participation and equal privileges for all users, a Teams Event can have presenters, producers and attendees. This allows for multiple presenters to be able to work remotely or together in one space with the guidance of a producer who has control over active cameras or a presentation display working with PowerPoint or Stream 

The attendees can be managed at an organizational level for something like an internal conference, or they can be sorted out by paying members for a virtual trade show. For a more general audience or for doing an open webinar or a public Q&A session, the link can be tailored for anyone to be able to join with a limit of 10,000 participants.  

Oh! And for everyone who still thinks Zoom is just more “fun,” Teams even added background effects for video calls this week on top of being free until January 2021.  

Microsoft's Suite of Tools Also Comes With Several Bonuses!  

While there are plenty of reasons to criticize the “a la carte” approach to business productivity applications, there is a lot more to cover if we focus on the benefits of the Microsoft suite of tools and their benefits. One such tool is the world class end point security platform: Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (MDATP). A giant step up from traditional antivirus software, MDATP brings in central threat and vulnerability management system to quickly discover, prioritize, and remediate attack vectors and misconfigurations. This allows company security protocols to be enforced on all machines in the field while integrating directly with Microsoft to automate all processes.

Combined with Azure Sentinel, a world class SIEM tool, any company can upgrade its threat detection and response tools witcloud-deployed artificial intelligence; eliminating the need for security infrastructure setup and maintenance. This allows rapid scaling while reducing costs. Azure Sentinel aggregates data from all sources, including users, applications, servers, and devices running on-premises or in any cloud, so that IT and security staff can process millions of records in a few seconds. 

All of these tools integrate with Office 365, and prices start in the $5.00 range per month. In the pursuit of the most valuable office productivity suite, right now Microsoft is truly without a peer, and we ask you to Contact Us to get started.  

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 this 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 to take control of your security and keep your data secure. 

GoVanguard COVID-19 Resources! Contact us for access to the Freebies mentioned below. 

COVID-19 has swept the planet and exposed a few major flaws in the United States’ domestic supply chain. One of the clear shortcomings is the supply of n95 masks and other critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). While masks are the most obvious shortfall during this pandemic, there are also reports of a shortage of face shields and body coverings, as well as more complex tools like hospital ventilators. Since the shortage most heavily impacts nurses, doctors and other critical ER staff, governments have stepped in to manage the allocation of PPE supplies. Meanwhile companies like 3M, Ford and Dyson are ramping up emergency manufacturing procedures to meet medical demand. 

While the medical use of PPE for sick patients and hospital staff is critical, it ignores a crucial aspect of fighting the pandemic: prevention! 

Prevention!

People still need to venture out to buy food and supplies, and there are a lot of people still working in essential business functions – many of which are still making regular contact with other people. With the shortages prioritizing medical professionals and the sick, something needed to be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the general public.  

GoVanguard President Christian Scott went to work on a solution. He took it upon himself to find a viable face mask design and remix it to suit the specific needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, his design focused on safe and easy changing of the particle filtration media, so that the virus does not have to be touched while the equipment is being replaced or cleaned. After some testing with friends and family, he released it to the open source community for people to 3D print in their own homes! CLICK FOR MASK FILE

More Resources

During testing, he received some feedback about other overlooked needs in the community. 

Obviously, not everyone has a 3D printer, and many people have other needs besides respiratory masks. Christian and the team at GoVanguard went to work curating an open source repository of resources so that people can help protect themselves and learn to be a resource in their communities!

The GoVanguard COVID-19 DIY Resources Repository was created to provide links to simple resources including sewing patterns, decontamination methods and some group resources for people who want to have deeper conversations. There are even tools available for people to make their own ventilators or repurpose parts to have a single ventilator save multiple lives at one time and videos to demonstrate useful techniques! CLICK FOR RESOURCES

COVID19 Freebies

Economic Impact

Another thing to consider during the pandemic is the remote workforce. Many people have been laid off or sent to work from home. Small and mid-sized business have been given some vague timelines for bailout money or access to special loans from the SBA. However, some of those things require more time than some businesses have to wait. 

In order to help alleviate some of those economic pressures, GoVanguard created a list of ways to mitigate risk, and we are offering our own stimulus: 

  1. We are waiving our incident response retainer. Malicious actors are on the prowl, and companies need to act quickly to respond to incidents. For the foreseeable future, we are waiving our fee, and moving to a zero dollar retainer.
  2. As a Tier 1 Microsoft CSP & Gold Partner we have negotiated the right to offer a six month Office 365 E1 trial for free to relieve some stress on your remote workforce!

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 this 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 to take control of your security and keep your data secure.

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. 

 

Sneaky, sneaky!  

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.

COVID email

Phishing Email

 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. 

 

Staying protected 

So how can you avoid falling victim to these scam attempts? GoVanguard recommends that all companies.  

  1. Be extra cautious with emails and files received from unknown, but official sounding senders, especially if they prompt for actions and credentials. 
  1. 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. 
  1. Beware of “special” offers. “An exclusive cure for Coronavirus” is not ever going to be emailed to you.  
  1. Beware of lookalike 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 

White House Data Breach

Malicious actors have penetrated the networks of the Department of Defense (DoD) agency tasked with securing and managing electronic communications for the White House. They have leaked personally identifiable information (PII) of White House staff, including Donald Trump and Mike Pence, which raises major red flags about the security of communications among U.S. officials as the 2020 election gets underway.

On Friday, the data breach became public via a report from Reuters when they confirmed that affected parties at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) had been sent letters informing them of the breach.

DISA Command Flow Chart for White House Security Operations

DISA Operations Flow Chart

DISA acts as a provider of telecommunications and IT management for the President and other White House executive staff. This includes the U.S. Secret Service, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior members of the

armed forces, according to the agency’s website.

DISA employs about 8,000 people, including military and civilians, but is known to contract some private companies that have federal contractor certifications. Interestingly, DISA was part of the task force that helped reform the government contractor security clearance process following the U.S. Office of Personnel Management attacks in 2014 and 2015. Those breaches compromised the records of about 21 million government employees, and the current DISA breach is estimated at 200,000, according to Forbes.

Notification documents started to leak onto social media over the weekend, stating, “During the May to July 2019 time frame, some of your personal information, including your social security number, may have been compromised in a data breach on a system hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency.” The letter was signed by Roger Greenwell, DISA CIO and risk management executive.

DISA Disclosure Letter about White House Data Breach. From Roger Greenwell.

Letter from Officer Roger Greenwell

DISA does not believe that any data from the breach has been misused, according to the letter, but these sorts of data breaches are not typically about the data used immediately after the attacks. Instead, malicious acts against nations tend to be just a small part of a broader attack. Use of breached data can go on for years as malicious actors engage in on-going spear phishing attacks and data mining operations to work their way deeper into secure systems.

With the stolen data, talented hackers can work their way into the most secure environments – exposing critical data to the nation’s security.

“We take this potential data compromise very seriously,” Greenwell wrote. “As a result we have put additional security measures in place to prevent future incidents and we are adopting new protocols to increase protection of all PII.”

The nature of those additional security measures has not been disclosed, but DISA is going forward under the assumption that the attack was state-sponsored.

“No doubt this was a state-sponsored activity; this breach will be used to further target DISA employees with admin access to highly sensitive networks,” Rosa Smothers, senior vice president of cyber operations, KnowBe4, said in an email. “It’s a painful irony that the agency charged with providing secure comms for the White House has fallen victim to a data breach.”

The breach will likely have serious implications for the upcoming presidential election.

With the memory of “Russian Hackers” alleged meddling in the 2016 election, the electoral consequences of international cybercrime are still very much on the minds of American voters. If there is one thing the United States does not need right now, it is a major undermining of the integrity of the vote.

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 that proceed them. In order to stop malicious attacks from state actors to undermine the integrity of U.S. elections and the Republic itself, 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 to keep the nation secure.

Are you Compliant with the New York SHIELD Act?

The New York Shield Act has broadly increased the scope of how “private information” is defined, and how it must be dealt with by any business that maintains the customer data of any citizen of the state of New York. The “Stop Hacks & Improve ELectronic Data Security” Act is an attempt to modernize the way that financial data is secured. It also expands the definition of a breach, and changes the threshold at which a company is obligated to disclose the theft of data to the state and to citizens of New York.

While there are many federal and state laws across the country with varying standards, SHIELD intermingles with some, but is written in such a way that it supersedes older laws, and applies more broadly than existing law in New York. Any business, of any size, in any state that collects Social Security numbers, W2 forms or other relevant financial data of a New York citizen breach notification components came into effect on October 23, 2019. The security safeguard requirements of the SHIELD Act will be in effect on March 21, 2020.

The new law broadly expands on requirements and specifies many new steps that companies must go through in the reporting of a data breach, and offers plenty of suggestions to create reasonable safeguards against malicious attack.

Data Breach Notification

The SHIELD Act amends New York’s existing laws to broaden the obligations of all businesses to notify customers of a breach. The big change in the definition of “private information” now includes e-mail addresses, biometrics, as well as security questions and answers for password and identity authentication in addition to the more typical definition that includes financial account numbers and personal contact data. SHIELD also expands the definition of a “data breach” from unauthorized acquisition to merely unauthorized access to private information. If any unauthorized person in the business environment could view the protected information of client, the data should be considered compromised.

Another significant change is that rather than simply notifying customers of a breach, the offending business party must also provide relevant links, phone numbers or other contact information for the agencies most appropriate to compensate for the specific types of compromised data. In some circumstances, this could include mandatory credit monitoring, but it could go as far as reporting specific cases to state and federal agencies for recovery and compensation of the individual affected parties.

Another shift is that for health care organizations which are bound to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) and are currently required to notify the Secretary of Health and Human Services of breaches under those regulations, the SHIELD Act adds the requirement to provide notification to the state Attorney General within ten business days of notifying the Secretary.

In-state businesses that experience a breach must also notify the New York State Office of Information Technology Services, who will provide a report on the scope of the breach and recommendations to improve the security of the system to the offending New York based business.

With such a large step in reporting requirements, it is crucial to make sure your compliance with SHIELD is up to par. If you are unsure, GoVanguard offers compliance assessment consultation and reporting as a first step to limiting your company’s exposure.

Safeguards

The SHIELD Act requires businesses to first be compliant with all other existing regulations like HIPPA… Businesses must also implement administrative, technical and physical safeguards to minimize risk.

This includes the following:

  • SHIELD requires staff to be trained to be in compliance with the new law.
  • Businesses must also have sufficient software and hardware controls, and they must maintain malware detection and protection tools. We recommend regular pentesting intervals to confirm the effectiveness of these systems.
  • The law may also mean records must be stored in a locked and monitored room and disposed of in accordance with very tight procedures.

While the law gives no leniency on penalties for small business, it does give some slack on standards that are “reasonable” and “appropriate” for the size of the business and the value of the data to comply with security standards.

Penalties

The SHIELD Act does not eliminate private rights to pursue restoration in court, but it does double the civil penalty from $10 to $20 per incident or $5,000, whichever is greater, for businesses who fail to sufficiently report a data breach. SHIELD also increases the statutory cap on the penalty from $150,000 to $250,000.

But even with the new and increased regulations and penalties, not everyone feels the Act goes far enough! Crane’s New York editorialist, Fouad Khalil, states:

“…the Shield Act, though a promising first step, is still very much a stopgap in the fight for complete consumer privacy. Organizations will still have more “control” over our private data because of a lack of enforcement.”

He goes on:

“At a time where consumer data protection is more important than ever, organizations trying to maintain sanity with all the laws and regulations must keep their privacy and security programs up to date. And government must be clear and forceful with the laws it is instituting. If both can play their part, this would be a victory for both consumers and businesses in New York.”

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 comply with The Shield Act, 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 brand’s reputation secure.

The Wawa credit card data breach is one of the worst retail failures of data security in recent history. 

Last week we reported on the consumer side of the Wawa credit card data breach that, as far as we can tell, affected every single swiped payment card between March and December 2019. In a nutshell, Wawa discovered a security breach back on December 10th, 2019 involving all of their POS systems, fast-forward to January 28th2020 and Wawa released a statement acknowledging that the recently stolen card holder data was featured on “Joker’s Stash”, a sprawling virtual hub of stolen card data that has served as the distribution point for accounts compromised in many of the retail card breaches. 

 This week, we will take a quick dive into some of the likely causes of the credit card data breach, baseline security controls that should have been in place, and some of the ways that GoVanguard recommends to help prevent security incidents like this from happening to your organization. 

Jokers Stash

Wawa Credit Card Data For Sale on “Joker's Stash”

 

So What Happened?

The root cause behind most data breaches perpetrated by external malicious actors (including this one) is typically poor implementation of administrative, technical and physical security controls. In the case of Wawa, malware was installed on multiple POS (point of sale) terminals – which is a common asset for malicious actors to target. 

The concerning part of the security incident, as told from Wawa’s own narrative, is that the malware was able to laterally move across multiple Wawa stores and all the way to central POS payment processing servers This means that it is likely that Wawa had no or poor network segregation in place which violates a core requirement of PCI-DSS: the standards which apply to all organizations that process card holder data (credit card and debit card transactions). It seems that Wawa did not have basic security and network segregation mechanisms in place like robust access control lists (ACLs) because physical stores should not be able to directly communicate between one another. Basic security controls like ACLs help prevent the lateral movement of malicious actors between information systems and contain the malicious actor to a specific location or system domain. 

Furthermore, the fact that the security breach went undetected for over nine months suggests that Wawa did not have any NIDS (network intrusion detection software) systemin place or it was not being monitored by staff – another PCI-DSS requirement for an organization like Wawa 

Lastly, Wawa unable to specify which stores were affected and which stores were not affected by the security breach. Wawa’s inconclusive response suggests that they had very little logs to analyze and pinpoint the exact lateral movement path of the malicious actor behind the security breachThis means there was probably no centralized logging facilities or SIEM (security information event management) in place – another PCI-DSS requirement for an organization like Wawa. 

Malicious Actor Attack Process

What Happens Next?  

The reputational and financial damage that this security breach will cause Wawa in the mid-long term is inestimable but Classaction.org says that the retailer is “swamped” with litigation; noting at least 11 major, federal lawsuits at this current moment.  

On January 29, 2019, Inspire Federal Credit Union added themselves to the list of plaintiffs. An unnamed, but official spokesman for Inspire Federal Credit Union stated 

“Furthermore, time will tell whether plaintiff is subject to an imminent threat of future harm because Wawa’s response to the data breach is so inadequate that it is doubtful that it has cured the deficiencies in its data security measures sufficiently to prevent a subsequent data breach.” 

Concisely put, it iapparent that Wawa had an immature information security program with deficiencies across many security controls including network segregation, malware detection, intrusion detection and centralized systems logging. All of these deficient security controls could have been enumerated and analyzed easily with a cybersecurity risk assessment, information security program gap assessment or network penetration test.  

 

What Can My Company Do To Avoid a Similar Breach?

The Wawa security breach demonstrates worst-case scenario for a retailer that depends on the trustworthiness of their brand, especially given the failure of so many basic security principles. 

GoVanguard is a cybersecurity provider on the forefront of an ever-changing, complex security landscape. We provide both snapshot-based and continuous security testing services including risk assessments and web/network penetration tests. 

Reach out to us today and see how easy it is take control of your security and keep your brand’s reputation secure. 

Many retail data breaches leak partial customer data, partial credit card numbers or other bits of information that malicious actors can scrape and use as part of broader attacks. But the Wawa data breach is different. Every single customer that used their physical credit or debit card at a Wawa store since the spring of 2019 has had their card number stolen by malware on Wawa's point-of-sale servers, and the info is already for sale on the darkweb!

GoVanguard Recommendations to Protect Yourself:

1.      For those affected, we highly recommend replacing your credit or debit card. If you choose not to do so, we recommend watching your payment transaction statements closely.

2.      Wawa is required to provide free Identity Protection Services to those who are affected. If you do not already have ID Theft and Credit Monitoring (like LifeLock), navigate to https://www.experianidworks.com/credit and sign up with the activation code 4H2H3T9H6.

3.      We recommend consumers switch to making in-store purchases with a digital wallet or mobile payment app like Apple Pay, Google Pay or  Samsung Pay. With these apps, the merchant does not receive the details of your credit, debit card or checking account. They only receive a unique, one-time code for that specific purchase. Even if the merchant’s point-of-sale system is hacked, you will not have to worry about your card number being stolen.

4.      For online retail purchases we recommend using Privacy.com (it’s free! They make money from interchange fees paid by merchants) that can generate merchant-specific card numbers and “burner” card numbers for online purchases so that you never have to use your real card number!

Next week, we will go over the details of the specific malware attack and how a systematic approach to monitoring and penetration testing would likely have mitigated the attack entirely. We will also discuss why a rigorous security protocol is crucial in all retail point-of-sale environments.

See you next week!

The US Department of Defense issued multiple warnings for all US Military personnel this month; banning the viral Chinese social media app TikTok! Due to various threats of data leakage, Chinese Communist Party censorship and the potential for exploits, the DoD has demanded that all government-issued smartphones have the application removed immediately, and monitor their personal phones and their family members' devices for unusual and unsolicited texts, calls, direct messages and emails. Air Force Lt. Col. Uriah Orland stated, Any such messages should be deleted immediately.

 

 So why the sudden uproar?  

 

If you have tweens, teens or young adults in your household, you probably have the alleged Chinese surveillance app sitting within your walls and connecting to your Wi-Fi! TikTok is the 3rd most downloaded app of 2019, and it is chugging away at dethroning the social media titans of yesteryear even while the US “Committee on Foreign Investment” investigates censorship of TikTok’ed content critical of China’s Communist Party. But even as President Trump bans tech from Huawei and other Chinese firms from entering the US, jubilation abounds as American kids share videos – primarily lip-syncing pop music hits or creating short sketch comedy – over the Chinese powerhouse of social media! 

  

But this is not a scathing political piece of propaganda in the campaign to ensure that Americans suddenly resume “buying American.” Nor is it an analysis of the DoD’s reactions to the threat. Rather, this is a warning about a new and clever chain of exploits centered around Tiktok which targets a host of private user data! The initial exploit is devious because of its near perfect use of social engineering to trick a user into authenticating their app from a spoofed SMS. From there, the list of compromised data is long and insidious:    

   

With use of open redirection, and cross-site scripting (XSS), a malicious actor can:    

  

  • Delete any video from a victim’s TikTok profile.  
      
  • Upload unauthorized videos to the victim’s TikTok profile.  
      
  • Make the victim’s private, “hidden” videos public.  
      
  • Reveal personal information, such as private addresses and emails.  
      

The attack uses an insecure SMS system that TikTok offers through its website which asks users to send a message with the official link to download the popular app. An attacker can then send an SMS message to the victim’s phone number with the appearance of being sent on behalf of TikTok. The download URL will have been modified to direct to a malicious page that executes code on the targeted device with the already installed TikTok app.   

  

When this attack was unknown and unpatched in the wild, the exploit would execute JavaScript code as soon as they clicked the link sent by the TikTok server over SMS. This attack is called a “cross-site request forgery attack,” which aims to trick authenticated users into executing an unwanted action.   

   

GoVanguard CTO, Shane Scottcommented, “The beauty of the attack is that the authentication wasn’t unsolicited. The user requested the text message, and they followed directions correctly to authenticate the app. Why would they ever assume they had been attacked? This would even trick a lot of seen savvy people until they had a reason to assume there was something wrong.”   

   

In November 2019, this massive chain of vulnerabilities was responsibly disclosed to ByteDance, the company who maintains and distributes TikTok, who then released a patched version of its mobile app to protect its users from this string of attacks. If you are not running the latest version of TikTok available on official app stores for Android and iOS, we advise that you update your app as soon as possible.  

  

Or, if you are a 33-year-old professional, like myself, you can follow my lead and delete TikTok altogether.  

  

I didn’t “get it” anyways!