The governments of the UK, US, Australia and more have publicly blamed Russia for the NotPetya ransomware attacks, which crippled businesses all over Europe back in June 2017 with a particularly nasty and destructive strain of ransomware. Last Thursday, the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stated that NotPetya was “a reckless and indiscriminate cyber-attack that will be met with international consequences”, squarely blaming the Russuan Military and the Kremlin for causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage to businesses and states alike. The same day, the British defence secretary Gavin Williamson accused the Russian government of “undermining democracy”, after the attack, which was primarily aimed at the Ukraine, spread uncontrolled throughout Europe and beyond and caused major disruption to commerce and public services.
Norton has just released their annual Cyber Security Insights Report, which analyses the effects of cyber crime around the world. One of the key findings of this report is that when it comes to cyber security, “consumers are overconfident in their security prowess, leaving them vulnerable and enabling cyber criminals to up the ante this year, which has resulted in record attacks”. Over the course of 2017, the report estimates that over 978 million adults in 20 countries around the world experienced cyber crime. These attacks cost consumers an estimated €150 billion.
While most people stated that cyber security was important to them, one third of people stored their passwords insecurely and one fifth admitted to using the same password across all sites they use. Over half of the respondents reported either they or someone they knew had been a victim of cyber crime, with the average cyber crime victim spending almost three full working days recovering from the attack.
“When it comes to cyber security, consumers are overconfident in their security prowess, leaving them vulnerable and enabling cyber criminals to up the ante this year, which has resulted in record attacks.”
A macro is a small piece of code that runs within a software program such as Microsoft Word or Excel, and is normally used to automate common or repetitive tasks. Macro malware is the practice of hiding a virus in a macro code and enticing unsuspecting users into downloading a Word or Excel file and running the macro script within, which then will download a virus, malware or even ransomware onto that person’s PC. Macro malware was common during the 1990s, but lapsed in popularity through most of the 21st century as increasingly savvy PC users learned how to spot the spam or phishing emails that delivered them, which were often riddled with typos. Nowadays, however, macro malware is seeing a big return due to two factors – Phishing emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated and no longer have obvious typos in them, and ransomware – a very profitable form of malware for criminals – can be easily downloaded via a macro, leading to entire networks being encrypted and held to ransom. It is now critical that all users understand the threats that macro malware can pose, particularly to their organisation, and learn how to spot the attacks before it’s too late.
Excel files are a common means of transmission for macro malware, which can download ransomware to infect entire networks at a time
In May of this year, the world was shook by a global ransomware attack, the now-infamous WannaCry, which is believed to have affected more than 400,000 machines. It shook the world, crippling business big and small across a wide variety of industries. It utilised a vulnerability in the outdated Windows protocol Server Message Block (SMB) v1, and Microsoft even developed a patch for Windows XP to help defend against it. How could such an attack have caught so many organisations off guard? Well, lack of patching, cited the experts, and lack of security awareness on behalf of their employees. Patch your machines now, train your staff, and you’ll be OK going forward. Then, the following month, it happened again – the world was hit by NotPetya, a ransomware strain believed to have infected a further 250,000 machines around the world. It’s worth noting that both attacks managed to affect PCs in Ireland, and that the second of the two major attacks could have been prevented if these companies had taken appropriate measures following WannaCry.
BadRabbit is the latest in a streak of mass-ransomware attacks this year, and may have been unleashed by the creators of NotPetya
As of this week, yet another strain of mass-ransomware is out in the wild, which has been dubbed BadRabbit. While it doesn’t utilise the same vulnerability as the previous two infections, its modus operandi is very similar in that it relies on both the SMB v1 protocol (which is largely defunct in 2017) and heavy use of social engineering to trick employees into clicking their malicious links. It’s an epidemic, and too few companies are learning the lessons that the cyber and business communities have gleaned from these attacks.
Ransomware has taken the world by storm this year, costing millions for businesses around the world. In the last 12 months alone, the number of ransomware variants spotted in the wild has more than doubled. As its prevalence has increased, so has the complexity of the attacks, and new ways to defend against them have been developed. Microsoft have been known to take the ransomware threat very seriously, even releasing a security patch for the long obsolete Windows XP operating system in the wake of the infamous WannaCry attack back in May. With the realease of the Windows 10 Creators Update (build 1703), now there are even more features built right in to the OS that can prevent and protect against ransomware. In fact, it’s so secure that Microsoft claim no Windows 10 devices were affected by WannaCry.