January 2014 started with a bang, with one in every 191 web requests resulting in a web malware encounter. The Cisco Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) observed this same trend, witnessing a 200% increase in web malware encounters experienced by Cisco employees for the month. Overall, January 1, 25, and 26 were the highest risk days for encountering web delivered malware. In the chart below, the lower the number, the higher the risk of encounters. Still, with a median encounter rate of 1:375 requests, every day of January 2014 represented significant risk for web browsing.
“There is no silver bullet.” That’s one of our favorite sayings at Cisco Security. We use it to convey the point that malware prevention is not 100%. As new attack vectors emerge and the threat landscape evolves, some malware will get through – regardless of which security vendor you choose.
In fact, our recently released 2014 Annual Security Report found that “100 percent of business networks analyzed by Cisco have traffic going to websites that host malware.” Basically, everyone will be compromised to one degree or another.
There are two factors at play. First, as modern networks have expanded and extend beyond the traditional perimeter to include endpoints, mobile devices, virtual desktops, data centers, and the cloud, new attack vectors have emerged. Attackers don’t discriminate and will take advantage of any gap in protection to accomplish their mission.
Second, attackers are focused on understanding security technologies, how they work, where they are deployed, and how to exploit their weaknesses. For example, they outsmart point-in-time defenses – like sandbox technologies that only scan files once – by creating targeted, context-aware malware that can modify its behavior to evade detection and infiltrate the extended network where it is difficult to locate, let alone eradicate.
So what can you do about it? Well, at Cisco we advocate for continuous protection across the entire attack continuum – before, during, and after an attack. We believe security strategies that focus solely on perimeter-based defenses and preventive techniques will only leave attackers free to act as they please, once inside your network.
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Malware is everywhere and it’s incredibly challenging to combat, using whatever unprotected path exists to reach its target and accomplish its mission.
Malware has become the weapon of choice for hackers. According to the 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, of the top 20 types of threat actions last year, malware is the most common method used, followed by hacking and social engineering. Increasingly, blended threats that combine several methods – for example, phishing, malware and hacking – are being used to introduce malware, embed the malware in networks, remain undetected for long periods of time and steal data or disrupt critical systems. More specifically on blended threats, the report tells us that more than 95 percent of all attacks intended for conduct espionage employed phishing. What is more, a prominent recent retail breach began with a targeted email phishing attack that ultimately led to access to payment system data via malware uploaded to PoS systems.
A few months ago we discussed the various ways that consumer PII is compromised. The recent attacks against Target and Neiman Marcus illustrate the constant threat that payment card accepting retailers of all sizes face. Yesterday Reuters reported that similar breaches over the holidays affected “at least three other well-known U.S. retailers”. Given the current onslaught, it’s a good time for retailers to examine their detection capabilities before a payment card data attack, while creating new goals for shortening remediation windows during and after an attack.
Update 2014-01-10: This malicious campaign has expanded to include emails that masquerade as bills from NTTCable and from VolksbankU
Update 2014-01-21: We’ve updated the chart to include the Vodafon emails and latest URL activity
English language has emerged as the language of choice for international commerce. Since people throughout the world are used to receiving English language emails, spammers have
also adopted the English language as the means of getting their message to large numbers of international recipients. However, spam messages that are written in a local language and that reference local companies can be particularly enticing for recipients to open because they do not expect malicious messages to be written in anything other than English. Cisco has observed and blocked a large number of malicious spam messages written in German language masquerading as phone billing statements. Initially the spam run masqueraded as Telekom Deutschland, with subsequent messages masquerading as messages from NTTCable and Volksbank.
Cisco TRAC was able to locate what appears to be a single attack attempt, likely a test run, on 2013-12-16 however the majority of the attack started on 2014-01-05 and is ongoing. The malware is currently targeting users as depicted in the heap map below. The vast majority of attacks are occurring in Germany. It is reported that the end goal of this malware is to harvest credentials.
This heat-map represents the malicious URL activity we have detected and blocked: