Tag: Spam Awareness

Ransomware: Trojan asks to reactivate Windows

A new mutation of ransomware, which asks for reactivation of Windows, has been reported by F-secure. The user gets a blue screen, saying that the Windows license has been locked. The message screen exactly looks like the Windows screen during installation of OS. There is even a Windows logo on the top-right corner of the screen, to make the message look authentic.

It then prompts the victim to complete activation by calling one of the numbers listed on the screen and get a code. It even says that the phone call is free of charge. However, the call is not free and the victim is charged a hefty bill for the call. The hacker is paid for the call via a technique called short stopping, which involves rogue phone operators routing expensive calls to cheaper countries.

The victim is given the unlock code after 3 minutes of waiting on the call. The unlock code is found out to be 1351236 always. So, the victims can directly use this code number to unlock their PCs without calling the phone numbers.

Email Spam Volumes Fall to Lowest Level in Two Years: Symantec

A recent report from Symantec declared that spam volumes in January 2011 fell to the lowest levels, since March 2009. The spam volumes seemed to drop dramatically since 25th December of 2010 and continued its phase in January. The only time that spam volumes dropped by such a remarkable extent was after the closure of McColo, a California-based ISP in 2008, for being implicated in criminal and botnet activities.

Dramatic decline in spam levels
Spam, in January 2011, accounted only for 78.6% of the total email traffic. This was a 3.1% drop since December 2010 and a significant 65.9% lower compared to same period, a year ago. However, the spam rate is still alarming with 1 in every 1.3 mails being a spam one. The fall of the spam was credited to the apparent fall in activity of 3 major botnets – Rustock, Xarvester and Lethic.

Spam levels – Country wise for January 2011

  1. Oman – 88.8%
  2. China – 84.6%
  3. Hungary – 83.3%
  4. Luxembourg – 82.8%
  5. Kuwait – 81.9%
  6. South Africa – 80.0%
  7. US – 78.8%
  8. UK – 78.7%
  9. Canada – 78.3%
  10. Australia – 77.3%

Minute increase in phishing activity
One in 409.7 emails was found to comprise of a phishing attack in January 2011, said Symantec. This was a small 0.004% increase since December 2010. Phishing levels in US were 1 in 892.8 emails. South Africa was the most targeted geography by email phishing attacks with one in 51.7 emails blocked as phishing email. Other top targeted geographies by phishing emails are as follows:

  • UK – 1 in 188.6 emails
  • Canada – 1 in 204.6 emails
  • UAE – 1 in 247.3 emails
  • Oman – 1 in 248.4 emails

Increase in new malicious domains
Symantec message labs has identified an average of 2,751 malicious websites each day, in January 2011. Around 44.1% of them were identified to be new domains, a 7.9% increase from December 2010. These websites contained malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware. 21.8% of all malware blocked on these sites was new. Another recent report from OpenDns said that 53.8% of all the phishing websites were hosted out of US.

Though email spam has decreased in volumes, web-based malware seems to increase in both volumes and coming up with new forms. The report suggests that organizations can combat the lurking threats by a policy-based security model. It is also important for users to choose an antivirus that is proactive in detecting malware and offers real-time updates for malware database.

Malware Lurks Within Pirated Versions of Popular Movie Downloads

Now-a-days cyber criminals are using popular events, current developments and even movie premieres to attract people who seek free or pirated content and exploiting.

A recent online scam which promises viewers to download the recent “Twilight – New Moon” movie is found to install malware in PCs.

The entire process of this scam is as follows…

  • Viewers are lured with the text websites, chat rooms and blogs that read: “Watch New Moon Full Movie.” Comment posts with related keywords are also used simultaneously to attract more search engines.
  • Search results for the movie then link users to stolen images from the movie itself, convincing the fan that the movie is only one click away.
  • When they click on the “movie player” they are told to install a “streamviewer”.
  • The streamviewer, however, installs malware on the user’s computer.

Don’t get enticed by such scams to get downloads without verifying if the sources are genuine or not. It can turn up to be more hectic not only in terms of cost but also in terms of toil and time. And the entire accountability will fall upon none other than you.

Courtesy: PCTools.com

Impact of Junk Emails on Corporates

Unsolicited email was first considered a bit of joke earning the jocular name of spam. However, as the spam volumes rose to epidemic proportions what was a minor crisis in the life of an IT professional soon snowballed into a major crisis. Factual figures estimate that spam amounts to nearly 95 percent of all emails. According to Jupiter Research reports, the active email consumer received a shocking 3253 pieces of spam in 2005.

This matter has to be taken up seriously these days. The daily flood of junk email has an adverse effect on the corporations by clogging their networks and filling up mail server bandwidth. It can also act as a gateway for serious network related threats such as Trojans, viruses, worms, and phishing scams that penetrate corporate networks. The cost of spam not just involves the cost of providing the extra bandwidth but also encompasses all the IT Departments protecting their organizations from the various threats as just seen.

Spam is a driving force behind the increasing number of data breaches in the corporate world. The impact of international awareness and the enforcement of anti-spam laws in countries like USA have forced the spammers to shift their operations to countries where the law is less regulated. According to the IT security firm Sophos, the spam operators are working hand in glove with hackers and virus’ writers with 60 percent of all spam coming from computers infected with malware. According to Webroot Software’s State of Spyware report 2005 was considered as the biggest year yet for spyware.

Apart from just the security threats the firms face from spam, there are concerns that are even more serious the firms face. In today’s world where corporate ethics matter a lot, firms are increasingly accountable for the actions of their employees. Any offensive message from a disgruntled employee can tarnish the name of the organization. Since there can be no definitive solution, the only way to reduce the threats of the email related threats is to deploy ever more sophisticated server side filtering to filter out spam and malicious emails from reaching the network.

A survey of Bank of Scotland (BoS) has found that about 37% of UK small firms were badly hit due to unsolicited spam, viruses, and faxes. The study has found that though the cost of minor data losses and firewalls is less than 1000 Pounds a year for two-thirds of small firms a full-scale virus attack can be terminal on entrepreneurs on tight budgets. For over fifty firms polled, it was found that there was one firm approximately, for which the cost of the viruses exceeded 10,000 Pounds a year. A further 40 percent of the managers claimed that junk email significantly added to their costs, while one in ten lost an estimated 10,000 Pounds a year through lost productivity and purchasing email filtering systems. Though laws have come up which state that individuals are not allowed to send emails or any other means of communication without prior permission, these are valid only in the UK and did not provide any help in reducing the flood of spam in the USA.

According to Eddie Morrison of BoS computer viruses are clearly one of the scourges of our business age. He observes that it has become increasingly easy for small firms to be bombarded with multiple unsolicited emails and faxes for advertising and other purposes.

Small firms are even more vulnerable to spam with a junk of them still without a junk email policy. The research conducted by Clearswift has found that 34 percent of small companies do not have measures in place to combat spam, while a further 57 percent of firms with a policy of not communicating about it to the staff.

Phishing – Types And Precautions

The criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication is known as Phishing.

Types of Phishing
Phishing is usually carried out by email or instant messaging and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website, which is similar to the legitimate one. Since the fake website is similar to the original one, it requires tremendous skill to determine whether a website is fake or not.

  1. Misspelled URLs: Phishers use some sort of deceptive techniques, which design a link in an e-mail (and the spoofed website it leads to) apparently belong to the spoofed organization by using misspelled URLs or of sub-domains. Sometimes the phishers make the anchor text for a link appear to be valid, whereas the link actually goes to the phishers site.
  2. Whaling: Phishing attacks directed specifically at senior executives and other high profile targets within businesses is known as Whaling.
  3. Image Phishing: Phishers have also used images instead of text to make it difficult for anti phishing filters.
  4. Cross site scripting: An attacker can even exploit flaws in the original website’s script against the victim making it even more difficult to detect since everything from the web address to the security certificates seem to be original. This technique is known as cross site scripting.
  5. Phone Phishing is the case where in a customer gets a call asking him to call back to discuss his problems while accessing his bank accounts. The person then is trapped into giving his sensitive information such as credit card information and the like.

Measures to counter phishing
People need to change their browsing habits when it comes to phishing. For example, when asked to reveal their sensitive information they should directly contact the company to make sure the mail is genuine and shouldn’t fall prey to mails that address them as “Dear Customer”. Paypal, for instance makes it a point to address the users by their usernames.

One of the major flaws of the user is the Click-through syndrome where he treats any pop-ups as a case of misconfiguration and proceeds with his work without heeding to the warning of the computer.