Even the biggest companies fall for it. This week, reports showed that Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, sometimes referred to as CEO Fraud Emails, netted over $100 million dollars from Facebook and Google. While people are increasingly aware of phishing emails containing links and attachments, BEC scams (also known as CEO Fraud) continue to reward criminals with alarming effectiveness. These phishing scams fly past traditional security roadblocks because there are no URLs or Attachments to scan.
Tysons, VA, April 25, 2017 – EY today announced that CEO and co-founder Rohyt Belani of PhishMe is a finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2017 Award in the Mid-Atlantic region. The awards program, which is celebrating its 31st year, recognizes entrepreneurs who are excelling in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Rohyt Belani was selected as a finalist by a panel of independent judges. Award winners will be announced at a special gala event on June 15, 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner.
Recent, large-scale distributions of the Zyklon botnet malware mark a continuing trend of off-the-shelf malware use. This multipurpose trojan, capable of supporting numerous criminal activities, has been identified in phishing attacks more and more frequently through the month of April. The bulk of these campaign have leveraged resume- and job-applicant-themed messaging as in the phishing narrative. The most recent analyses of this distribution have shown that the threat actors are attempting to leverage the malware’s full feature set by not only using it as an information stealer, but also as a downloader used to obtain and deploy the Cerber ransomware to infected endpoints. This technique demonstrates threat actor resourcefulness as well as the increasing commodification and democratization of malware utilities once reserved for only the most-technically-capable threat actors.
The ransomware that defined much of the phishing threat landscape in 2016 raged back into prominence on April 21, 2017 with multiple sets of phishing email messages. Harkening back to narratives used throughout 2016, these messages leveraged simple, easily-recognizable, but perennially-effective phishing lures to convince recipients to open the attached file.
It’s no secret that 90% of breaches start with a phishing attack. The question is: are you prepared to recognize phishing and respond to it? Many organizations are concerned with how much spam they receive and implement controls specific to spam. But you shouldn’t confuse preventing spam with responding to phishing attacks.
Threat actors using the Dridex botnet malware received a great deal of attention recently for their purported utilization of content exploiting a previously un-patched vulnerability in Microsoft Word. This exploit, which took advantage of unexpected behavior in the handling of certain document types, was reportedly used to deliver the Dridex botnet malware via documents attached to phishing emails. However, the bulk of Dridex campaigns leverage far more common delivery techniques that abuse the functionality that already exists in Microsoft Office and Adobe Reader rather than deploying some complex exploit content. This serves as a reminder that threat actors don’t always rely on exploit content because exploits of un-patched vulnerabilities are no longer required to break into an enterprise; simple phishing messages can accomplish this same goal.
On April 5th, our Phishing Defense Center received a flurry of emails with subject line following a pattern of Lastname, firstname. Attached to each email was a password-protected .docx Word document with an embedded OLE package. In all cases the attachments were password protected to decrease the likelihood of detection by automated analysis tools. A password was provided to the victim in the body of the email which attempts to lure the victim into opening the malicious attachment and to increase the apparent legitimacy of the message.
In the first quarter of 2017, PhishMe Intelligence has noted an increase in malware distributors utilizing OLE packages in order to deliver malware content to victims. This current trend was first noted in December 2016 with close association to the delivery of the Ursnif botnet malware. This technique abuses Microsoft Office documents by prompting the victim to double-click an embedded icon to access some content. These objects are used to write a script application to disk that facilitates the download and execution of a malware payload. This method adds to another iteration of techniques threat actors use to evade anti-analysis and sandbox environments and to successfully infect the intended recipient.
One of the most historically effective techniques for gaining new infections for the powerful Dridex botnet malware has been sizable sets of widely-distributed phishing email. While these large campaigns have been intermittent for several months, the past week’s Dridex distributions have shown a renewed vigor with several larger campaigns being launched both concurrently and repeatedly. Many of these campaigns return to well-used and previously-successful email templates and malware delivery tools that had seen earlier utilization in conjunction with both Dridex deliveries and the delivery of other malware tools.
On March 30, 2017 three distinct sets of phishing emails were identified as delivering the Dridex malware. Each was a rehashing of a previously-used phishing narrative. The emails analyzed for Threat ID 8692 pretended to represent communication from a travel agency based in the United Kingdom confirming the recipient’s vacation travel has been booked. Other emails, delivered concurrently, purposed to deliver a vaguely- described “confirmation” as analyzed in Threat ID 8693. Furthermore, Threat ID 8700 documents a set of messages purporting to deliver a notice that an image attachment was ready for sending in yet another vague phishing narrative. Examples of these messages can be seen in Figure 1.
The message narrative used in these campaigns should be familiar to information security professionals following Dridex as they represent similar themes to earlier Dridex campaigns. The impersonation of small- and medium-sized firms based in the United Kingdom was previously a common theme among Dridex delivery emails. This preference in content may serve to indicate a preference for a population with which those emails are meant to have disproportionate appeal. However, it appears that these emails were still delivered globally. The other repeated narrative seen once again today is a vague informational message about the status of an image attachment that has been readied for sending. Similar narratives have been used a half-dozen times in the delivery of Dridex since July 2015.
While the Dridex botnet malware’s users are launching phishing campaigns with renewed vigor, their stories and tools have stayed the same. This provides a distinct advantage to threat intelligence users who have access to repositories of information on the tactics, techniques, and procedures related to earlier attacks. It also provides an advantage to organizations whose email users are prepared and empowered to identify and report suspicious emails. Empowered recipients of messages like these are able to recognize the lure and instead of becoming victims, can make a difference for their organization by reporting the email.
Emails based on the threats shown in this blog post are also available as templates in PhishMe Simulator.
For further information on the Threat ID’s mentioned in this post, PhishMe Intelligence customers can log into https://www.threathq.com.
For more information on PhishMe’s human vetted, phishing-specific threat intelligence request a demo today.