When Denial-of-Service-attacks paralyze organizations
You often read news reports which state that a DDoS attack was responsible for the breakdown of a company’s website. Such an attack uses hijacked systems to intentionally generate a flood of data which paralyzes a company. Amongst others, email servers are frequently subject to DDoS attacks.
These attacks lead to the unavailability of websites and other services for a certain period of time. This outage of service can span from a few minutes to a few hours and even multiple days. Downtime – a nightmare for every organization.
DDoS attacks are not only able to hit the IT-structures of big international firms, which usually have well-engineered security concepts, they can harm smaller companies as well. Public institutions, administrations and authorities are also targets of these attacks. The reasons behind them are manifold: They can be traced back to the pure enjoyment of ‘destruction’, but the intentional harm of competitors or foreign governments can also be motives for these actions. Even hate and vengeance often cannot be ruled out here. For this reason, resorting to a reliable security system is inevitable.
DDoS attack: Digital vandalism impairs reputation
Each second in which, for instance, a mail server or certain kinds of website services are unavailable is expensive for an organization. This is especially true for companies which primarily process their transactions and offer their products and services online. The same goes for business divisions which handle their customer support services using email. The costs, however, do not only derive from the lost revenue during downtime. Having to quickly take measures of defense and potentially needing assistance from external experts can likewise become a cost driver. On top of everything, the impairment of the company’s reputation is another problem.
A company which the customer does not trust will not be able to have a solid long-term business base. For this reason, it is understandable that nearly 50 percent of affected companies keep quiet in the event of a cyber-attack. The fear of having to publicly admitting to a damage of their image is too severe.
This form of damage control might work in cases of simple cyber-crimes. It does not suffice however when it comes to DDoS attacks or forms of attacks that are a lot more complex. That is because these attacks do not only disrupt the activities and processes of the business unit, but often also cut through to the outside. Customers then notice these disruptions since they are directly affected by them as well.
Reliable IT security concepts are the solution
Companies should therefore be ready for DDoS attacks and every other form of cyber-attack. Security solutions such as the Hornetsecurity spam filter service are able to recognize a DDoS attack on a mailing server early enough and to fend them off. In the case of more complex forms of attack, like ransomware or identity theft, it is recommendable to use Advanced Threat Protection. This is a security solution which reliably recognizes and inhibits ransomware, blended and targeted attacks as well as digital espionage. Advanced Threat Protection’s (ATP) special analysis engines ensure this process. You can learn more about this here.
How can companies protect themselves from a DDoS attack?
But back to DDoS attacks. To prevent these, companies and authorities should take certain security precautions. What to do to effectively protect oneself from a DDoS attack.
1. The explosiveness of a DDoS attack
In principle, every organization can become the target of such an attack. Ultimately every firm and every administration must ask itself: “What would be the consequences of an outage of the mail server for me?” This question is important as the force of a DDoS attack can take shape in different strengths in the business environment. Downtime will be severely worse for a retailer who manages his shop online, compared to a local craftsman’s establishment. The result however is not much different for either of them. In the end, both want to maintain communication with their customers via email. For this reason a security concept is absolutely essential.
2. IT risk management
It is also important that the company takes precautions and implements specific courses of action in case of a DDoS attack. Should it come to a cyber-attack, a contact person should be immediately available. This could be an IT security officer in the company itself or an external employee of an IT service company, which offers appropriate security services and looks after IT security management.
3. Response to blackmail
Similar to ransomware, a successful DDoS attack, as a popular method, can be attached to a claim for money. This is a profitable business model for cyber criminals. This is especially true because the affected companies often agree to the offenders’ claims to avoid allegedly severe consequences. The BSI advises not to be susceptible to blackmail and to refuse to pay these respective sums of money. Instead, those affected should get the police involved and get support from professional IT security experts.
4. Implementation of defensive measures
The most important measure to avoid a DDoS attack is to not let it occur in the first place. For this purpose a competent IT security solution is vital – ideally, one that is cloud-based. The reason for this is that these providers have a much more powerful infrastructure and are able to parry even severe attacks without problem. In addition to that, customers do not have to worry about the installation and maintenance of the hard and software.
A short while ago, security experts discovered the security breach CVE-2017-11882 in the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft reacted quickly and closed the breach with a security update. Due to the publication of the exploit, however, attackers are now aware of the breach and target systems that haven’t been patched yet.
All Office versions besides Office 365 are affected by the security breach. The exploit is located in the Equation editor of Microsoft, which is a former version of the formula editor. It uses a buffer overflow which allows the attacker to execute his hazardous code on the user’s system. Through this, it is possible to download malware from the Internet and to install them.
Breach existed for 17 years
The Equation editor was compiled in 2000 and since then never reconditioned. Due to this, it is not fulfilling current security standards and allows a buffer overflow to happen which leads to the exploit. Even though the causing formula editor was replaced in Office 2007, it is still part of the package in order to ensure backward compatibility with older document versions, where the 17-year-old piece of software is needed to display and edit mathematical formula.
The only interaction necessary for the exploit to be executed is for a user to open the infected document. After that, the hazardous code will be executed automatically. Only the protected view, the so-called sandbox of the Office programs, is prohibiting its execution.
Hornetsecurity detects exploit in documents
Since the security breach was published, attackers are increasingly trying to distribute infected Office documents using the exploit. However, Hornetsecurity adapted its filters so it can detect infected documents before they appear in the mailbox. Nevertheless, we advise you to perform the security update as soon as possible.
Some time has passed since the last huge wave of ransomware attacks has been detected. Now, a new type has appeared and it is causing considerable damage. Especially in Eastern Europe and Russia the trojan was successful and infected several companies. But Germany has seen those attacks, too.
The malware Bad Rabbit, named after a specific site in the darknet, where the victims are supposed to pay the ransom. It encrypts local data and demands 0,05 Bitcoins to provide the decryption key. Considering the recent change rates this amounts to 293 USD or 255 Euro.
Down the Rabbit-Hole
The crypto-trojan spreads mainly through compromised news sites. By using so called watering hole attacks, the cyber criminals can target certain user groups and companies. If a user visits an infected website, an automated drive-by-download is initiated and a forged Adobe Flash update is downloaded. As soon as this file is executed, Bad Rabbit enters the system and all data are encrypted after a forced reboot of the computer.
Payment page in the TOR network
Click on the image to enlarge
Like WannaCry and Petya before, Bad Rabbit can spread within a network. However, instead of using the EternalBlue exploit in the Version 1.0 of the SMB protocol, the malware infects other computers through the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). To prevent a local distribution of Bad Rabbit, it is advisable to deactivate WMI if it is not in use.
Hornetsecurity recognizes the malware and protects with URL rewriting
The URL rewriting feature of Hornetsecurity Advanced Threat Protection recognizes Bad Rabbit on compromised websites and blocks it. Using Hornetsecurity ATP, you can continue clicking on news links in your emails without fearing to catch the malware.
Nevertheless, we recommend you to create backups on a regular basis and to not download unknown files or even execute them. Especially Adobe Flash updates should only be downloaded from the software producer itself. In case of an infection, do not pay the ransom, because it is unclear whether you will receive the keys necessary to recover your files.