Zoom Zero-Day Bug: Webcam Hijacking And Other Intrusive Exploits

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Internet safety is always a concern and there are a large number of tools available to assist with that. Depending on how much security you need, you may need to run multiple pieces of software. Antivirus, antimalware, firewalls, and even 2-factor authentication are security measures all doing different things.

Even with all of these types of security layers in place, there is no such thing as guaranteed safety. You can be as careful as possible and avoid anything seemingly questionable, but one thing you can’t avoid are security exploits.

An exploit could be used to track a user’s history, and possibly even every keystroke. This could potentially send passwords for anything you enter on the computer.

Recently, Zoom, a video conferencing application, was discovered to have a severe vulnerability on the Mac platform. This exploit was a very simple one: a person attempting to access your webcam could send a legitimate Zoom meeting invite, but set with certain settings on a certain server.

When the link is clicked, even without accepting the invite, the client is silently launched, turning on the end user’s webcam. Even if the Mac user had uninstalled Zoom, the client would silently reinstall and launch.

Back in 2017, a much larger user base was at severe risk of an exploit that would allow hackers to silently install malware to take remote control of the user’s computer. The CVE-2017-11882 exploit was a flaw in Microsoft Office software.

If Office was installed, a Visa paylink email was sent, and when the user opened the word document attached, it launched a PowerShell command installing Cobalt Strike, granting remote control to whoever deployed it.

It was not long before Microsoft had a security fix rolled out, but if the software was installed prior to installing the security update, the remote control software would persist and have free reign on not only one computer, but also be able to travel through the network.

These vulnerabilities are discovered in normal software and have been found in Windows’ core system more times than you probably realize. Microsoft is typically quick to roll out updates when they have the power to fix the flaw, even if it isn’t their software. This illustrates the great importance of keeping Windows up to date.

Sure, if you are at work and have an IT team like the staff at Tech Experts, your updates are managed and prioritized. While some updates are optional or just good for a more user-friendly experience, important security updates should always be installed as soon as possible.

As Windows 7 updates come to an end this year, any of these types of exploits will remain unfixed. Switching to Windows 10 or replacing your computer is the only way to keep getting the latest patches for these intrusive exploits.

If you are already on Windows 10, make sure you have antivirus installed. As always, check your system regularly for updates and get help if you need it – your safety depends on it.

Small Businesses Are Under Cyber Attack

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Ransomware, crypto jacking and phishing are now the biggest threat to the survival of small- and medium-sized companies (not to mention large companies, local governments, and even the federal government). Here are some sobering statistics:

  1. Ransomware or hackers attack a business every 14 seconds in the United States.
  2. Sonicwall (a major firewall vendor) reported a 300% increase in the frequency of attacks in 2018.
  3. Ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations will quadruple by next year.
  4. The financial impact of ransomware attacks against small companies is predicted to reach $11.5 billion dollars in 2019.
  5. MOST ALARMING: 91% of cyberattacks begin with a spear phishing email, the most common way to infect a company with ransomware.

The threat landscape has changed significantly in the last 12 months. It used to be the reliability of our client’s backups and disaster recovery options that would worry me at night. [Read more…]

Mozilla And Google Boosts Anti-Tracking And Security

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Internet security changes all the time and so does the variety of issues. We have to be sure to run anti-virus, watch out for infections and phishing, and regularly change our passwords just to start the process of being safe on the Internet.

There are people that spend time to create these viruses and other hidden or unwanted system modifications.

While their motivation may not be known (usually money), one of the hazards of using the Internet is dealing with the headaches these things can cause.

On top of regular infections, there are many data gathering processes that can run in the background of your system.

These can be gathering data to send to someone attempting to steal your information. There are also websites that gather data when you visit, login, or create an account.

While there are instances where gathering data is used maliciously as I mentioned, it is also something legitimate sites can be guilty of. In 2019, you may have heard of sites like Google and Facebook gathering information, but what and how much are they gathering? What can you do about it?

Earlier this year, the International Computer Science Institute investigated Google and the Applications linked with its Playstore.

Applications downloaded from Google and the Playstore can gather data, and that can be used to create your Advertising ID. This ID is unique, but is and can be reset.

Many applications were also linking that Advertising ID with the hardware IDs of a device, such as the MAC address. This is forbidden as it allows the data to be permanently stored, even when you erase your history and erase the application data. Google is addressing the issue and already forcing some applications to change its data gathering process.

Google is also stepping up security for mobile devices in another way. Users that are familiar with Chrome and its password storing may know the browser version of Google can suggest a strong password.

This is now coming to mobile devices as well, which will sync security across all devices, prompting you to use a strong and unique password when it is determined your password is weak or frequently used.

Facebook may be the king of data harvesting. I am sure many of you have searched for something on the Internet, then noticed ads on Facebook showing that item. This is part of targeted advertising done by Facebook.

Facebook has the ability to follow you around the web, checking your browser habits and collecting user data anytime you are on a site with a Like or comment section from Facebook attached.

Mozilla Firefox introduced the Facebook Container extension for its browser last year, which keeps Facebook isolated.

While it has been out for awhile, 2.0 was just released, which blocks those sites with the Facebook links from gathering information.

Firefox is stepping up the anti-tracking to another level as well. The browser debuted its new “Enhanced Tracking Protection.” Mozilla teamed up with Disconnect, an open source anti-tracking program to create this new protection that blocks over 1,000 third party websites from gathering data while you browse the Internet.

This feature is enabled by default once the browser is updated to its newest version.

Some may not worry about their privacy online, but for those who do, it’s time to update.

How To Save Your Business From Phishing Scams

Workplaces today are filled with computers and machines, but just as these workstations optimize efficiency and profit, they also increase the possibility of attacks designed to steal, destroy, or corrupt your data through the use of malicious programs.

The most probable avenue for these malicious programs is through phishing scams. To understand how to stop these attacks, you must first understand what a phishing scam entails.

A phishing scam is an attempt for someone to steal sensitive information or install malware onto your PC by tricking you into clicking a link, opening an attachment, or providing personal information.

Although these attacks use tactics that trick people every day, you can stay safe by staying smart. Through time and practice, it can become easy to spot a phishing attack and keep your PC and personal information safe.

If you receive an email containing a threatening message, usually one demanding immediate action, it is probably a phishing scam. Most of these messages try to trick users into clicking a link or opening an attachment with threatening messages like, “Your account has been compromised! You are no longer protected! Click here to protect your account!”

Once you click the link, though, you are redirected to a phishing site.

Another example may be what seems to be an email from your boss’ boss demanding sensitive information to complete company documentation. Always beware when you see a threatening or demanding message.

Another indicator of a phishing scam is an unfamiliar email address or domain name. Some scammers may use domain names or email addresses similar to your normal contacts, but they will never be the same. If you notice an inconsistency, report the email.

Phishing scams can also normally be identified by the sender’s grammar skills. Here is an example from a phishing email: “Click here to cancel this request, else your öffice 365 accöunt…” Terrible grammar and unfamiliar characters as shown here are indicators of a scam.

Lastly, be wary of any request for any type of personal or sensitive information whatsoever, even if it initially seems to be from a trustworthy source.

Even if it does not show any other signs of being a phishing scam, always double and triple-check the authenticity of the request.

If you do stumble across a phishing scam, your best course of action would be to delete the email in question without opening any attachments or clicking any links.

In addition, you should report the incident to your superior or your IT service provider. If a phishing attack happened to you, it can happen to your coworkers as well.

Giving sensitive company information away to a scammer is the last way you want to start your week.

Their tactics are always changing, so the best way to fight attacks like these is through education and awareness rather than programs or filters. Remember the red flags of a phishing scam, and you will have no problem keeping your business safe and secure.

What Are The Newest Phishing Attacks?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Phishing is a term adapted from the word “fishing.” When we go fishing, we put a line in the water with bait on it, and we sit back and wait for the fish to come along and take the bait. Maybe the fish was hungry. Perhaps it just wasn’t paying attention. At any rate, eventually a fish will bite, and you’ll have something delicious for dinner.

How Does Phishing Work?
This is essentially how cyber phishing works. Cybercriminals create an interesting email, maybe saying that you’ve won a $100 gift certificate from Amazon. Sound too good to be true? Find out! All you have to do is click the link and take a short survey.

Once you click the link, a virus is downloaded onto your system. Sometimes it’s malware, and sometimes it’s ransomware. Malware includes Trojans, worms, spyware, and adware. These malicious programs each have different goals, but all are destructive and aimed at harming your computers. [Read more…]

How To Reduce Pop-Ups And Other Browser Best Practices

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

One of the most annoying things about browsing the web are pop-ups. Depending on your browser, your ability to limit or block pop-ups is probably built-in. If it’s not, there is definitely an extension for that purpose.

There are also other ways to ensure you have the best and fastest browsing experience possible.

Before we get into which browsers have which kind of pop-up blocker, let’s examine a fact. Pop-ups are annoying, but not always intrusive or unwanted.

There are instances where I need a pop-up from a site as it may be an internal page that has been requested or a log-in box. This can be frustrating as we may not know a pop-up is coming from a link. It may appear that nothing has happened.

So how do you know? The best practice and safest way is to allow pop-ups from sites you trust (as needed).

Say you’re on your banking site and you click log-in. Normally, a pop-up log-in box is displayed, but nothing happens. The pop-up has been blocked.

In the browser, you can enable this webpage to allow pop-ups, thus restoring your access and keeping you secure in the process.

In addition to pop-ups, users must also be on the lookout for pop-under windows. These are typically pages that open with other pages, like a tag along. They also frequently occur when attempting to leave a web page. They pop underneath other windows, hence the name. In most cases, pop-up blockers will stop most pop-unders.

So what about the browsers? Well, let’s just cover the Big Three: Chrome, Edge, and Firefox.

These browsers all come with a built-in pop-up blocker – all of which can be enabled in the settings page of the browser.

In most cases, these will do what you want them to: stop pop-ups. However, there are some instances where pop-ups or pop-unders make it through. There are third party extensions for most browsers that will typically offer more security.

Now that these pop-ups are handled, what else can we do to make a better browser experience? There are a few things you can do to perform sort of “maintenance” on your browser.

Clearing your cache (stored data) can help a website that doesn’t want to load very quickly. Most people know about clearing your browsing history, but there are other clean-up methods available.

There are a few different types of stored data associated with browser use. Some of this is background information, temporary data, passwords, and preferences. You can choose which parts to remove, so you can still keep your saved information without having to reenter it.

Another quick and easy tune up process is to remove any unused browser extensions. This can help with basic browser speed and performance.

Maintaining a generally healthy system is also a key to browser speed. Malware and adware can often specifically affect browsers. Any malware affecting the entire system would affect your browsing speed as well.

The best practice you can have is to use a strong antivirus and scan your computer regularly. There are many factors at play and paying attention to all of them is key to the best browsing experience.

New Whaling Schemes: CEO Fraud Continues To Grow

In previous years, the first clue that your corporate email has been compromised would be a poorly-spelled and grammatically incorrect email message asking you to send thousands of dollars overseas.

While annoying, it was pretty easy to train staff members to see these as fraud and report the emails. Today’s cybercriminals are much more tech-savvy and sophisticated in their messaging, sending emails that purport to be from top executives in your organization, making a seemingly-reasonable request for you to transfer funds to them as they travel.

It’s much more likely that well-meaning financial managers will bite at this phishing scheme, making CEO and CFO fraud one of the fastest-growing ways for cybercriminals to defraud organizations of thousands of dollars at a time.

Here’s how to spot these so-called whaling schemes that target the “big fish” at an organization using social engineering and other advanced targeting mechanisms.

What Are Whaling Attacks?

Phishing emails are often a bit more basic, in that they may be targeted to any individual in the organization and ask for a limited amount of funds.

Whaling emails, on the other hand, are definitely going for the big haul, as they attempt to spoof the email address of the sender and aim pointed attacks based on information gathered from LinkedIn, corporate websites and social media.

This more sophisticated type of attack is more likely to trick people into wiring funds or passing along PII (Personally Identifiable Information) that can then be sold on the black market. Few industries are safe from this type of cyberattack, while larger and geographically dispersed organizations are more likely to become easy targets.

The Dangers of Whaling Emails

What is particularly troubling about this type of email is that they show an intimate knowledge of your organization and your operating principles. This could include everything from targeting exactly the individual who is most likely to respond to a financial request from their CEO to compromising the legitimate email accounts of your organization.

You may think that a reasonably alert finance or accounting manager would be able to see through this type of request, but the level of sophistication involved in these emails continues to grow. Scammers include insider information to make the emails look even more realistic, especially for globe-trotting CEOs who regularly need an infusion of cash from the home office.

According to Kaspersky, no one is really safe from these attacks — even the famed toy maker Mattel fell to the tactics of a fraudster to the tune of $3 million. The Snapchat human resources department also fell prey to scammers, only they were after personal information on current and past employees.

How Do You Protect Your Organization From Advanced Phishing Attacks?

The primary method of protection is ongoing education of staff at all levels of the organization. Some phishing or whaling attacks are easier to interpret than others and could include simple cues that something isn’t quite right. Here are some ways that you can potentially avoid phishing attacks:

  • Train staff to be on the lookout for fake (spoofed) email addresses or names. Show individuals how to hover over the email address and look closely to ensure that the domain name is spelled correctly.
  • Encourage individuals in a position of leadership to limit their social media presence and avoid sharing personal information online such as anniversaries, birthdays, promotions and relationships — all information that can be leveraged to add sophistication to an attack.
  • Deploy anti-phishing software that includes options such as link validation and URL screening.
  • Create internal best practices that include a secondary level of validation when large sums of money or sensitive information is requested. This can be as simple as a phone call to a company-owned phone to validate that the request is legitimate.
  • Request that your technology department or managed services provider add a flag to all emails that come from outside your corporate domain. That way, users can be trained to be wary of anything that appears to be internal to the organization, yet has that “external” flag.

There are no hard and fast rules that guarantee your organization will not be the victim of a phishing attack. However, ongoing education and strict security processes and procedures are two of the best ways to help keep your company’s finances — and personal information — safe from cyberattack.

Inside The Anatomy Of The Human Firewall

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Each year, around 61% of small businesses become the victims of a malware attack. While many small businesses may think no one would ever come after them because of their size, know that over half of the total global attacks hit small businesses and, for thieves, getting access to your systems is becoming increasingly lucrative.

Companies collect more about customers than ever before: medical history, financial records, consumer preferences, payment information, and other confidential information.

Some of this information could be used in malicious ways to either harm your business or directly harm the customers, so we all understand that we must protect it from cyberattacks.

Creating a human firewall is the best way to keep your system and data safe, but what exactly is a human firewall, why do you need one, and how can you build one? Let’s take a look! [Read more…]

What Are The Top Cybersecurity Trends For 2019?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Several events in 2018 brought cybersecurity to the forefront of public consciousness, as major sectors– from financial institutions to Facebook– were affected by cybercrime.

According to Forbes, 34 percent of US consumers had their personal information compromised in 2018. Security experts and business leaders are constantly looking for ways to keep two steps ahead of hackers.

Cybersecurity trends for 2019 are a popular topic. Here is what’s anticipated this year in the cybersecurity realm.

Tougher regulations
As digital capabilities are rapidly gaining a worldwide foothold, data is becoming our most highly-valued commodity. [Read more…]

Inside The United States Of Cybersecurity

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Last year, Alabama and South Dakota passed laws mandating data breach notification for its residents.

The passage meant all 50 states, the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories now have legal frameworks that require businesses and other entities to notify consumers about compromised data.

All 50 states also have statutes addressing hacking, unauthorized access, computer trespass, viruses or malware, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Every state has laws that allow consumers to freeze credit reporting, too.

While those milestones are notable, there are broader issues when it comes to legislative approaches to cybersecurity across the United States. There are vast discrepancies and differences among states when it comes to cybersecurity protection. [Read more…]