Monday, November 28, 2016

Passengers Ride Free on San Francisco Subway after Ransomware Attack

Hard-drive-scrambling ransomware menaced more than 2,000 systems at San Francisco's public transit agency on Friday and demanded 100 bitcoins to unlock data.

San Francisco Subway Car in Station

View the original article from The Register here.

Ticket machines were shut down and passengers were allowed to ride the Muni light-rail system for free on Saturday – a busy post-Thanksgiving shopping day for the city – while IT workers scrambled to clean up the mess.

A variant of the HDDCryptor malware infected 2,112 computers within the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the ransomware's masters claimed in email correspondence seen by El Reg.

These systems appear to include office admin desktops, CAD workstations, email and print servers, employee laptops, payroll systems, SQL databases, lost and found property terminals, and station kiosk PCs. We told that the worm-like malware automatically attacked the agency's network, and was able to reach the organization's domain controller and compromise network-attached Windows systems. There are roughly 8,500 PCs, Macs and other boxes on the agency's network.

After the vulnerable computers were infected and their storage scrambled, they were rebooted by the malware and, rather than start their operating system, they instead displayed the message: "You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted, Contact For Key ( ID:601."

HDDCryptor and its cousins encrypt local hard drives and network-shared files using randomly generated keys and then overwrite the hard disks' MBRs, where possible, to prevent systems from booting up properly. A machine is typically infected by an employee accidentally opening a booby-trapped executable in an email or download, and then the infection spreads out across the network.

When the 100-bitcoin ransom – right now about $73k – is paid, the crooks supposedly hand over a master decryption key to restore the ciphered drives and files. A bitcoin wallet into which the transit agency is expected to pay remains empty.

The extortionists behind the malware have complained that no one at the agency has so far spoken to them let alone offered to pay. The crooks said they will give Muni officials another day or so to get in touch before walking away. They also offered to decrypt one machine for one bitcoin to prove restoration is possible.

"Our software [is] working completely automatically and we don't [launch] targeted attacks ... SFMTA's network was very open and 2,000 server/PCs [were] infected by software," the ransomware's masterminds claimed in a statement in broken English on Sunday via email. "So we are waiting for contact [from] any responsible person in SFMTA but I think they don't want a deal. So we close this email [account] tomorrow."
You've been hacked ... Message left on a PC screen at a San Francisco Muni kiosk on Saturday (Photo by Colin Heilbut)

Buses and the underground-overground Muni rail system continue to run. The Muni's turnstiles were left open from Friday night, though, allowing people to travel for free. Ticketing systems were halted with "out of service" messages in the wake of the infection.

"There’s no impact to the transit service, but we have opened the fare gates as a precaution to minimize customer impact," the transit agency's spokesman Paul Rose said on Saturday. "Because this is an ongoing investigation it would not be appropriate to provide additional details at this point."

San Francisco's public transit system joins the ranks of hospitals, businesses, police stations and other organizations hit by ransomware. Some cough up cash to the extortionists who spread the file-encrypting software nasties, some don't. Meanwhile, Cisco-owned Talos has an open-source tool for protecting MBRs from ransomware and other malware. ®

Friday, November 4, 2016

Computer Virus Forces Hospitals to Cancel Operations

A computer virus has forced three hospitals offline and caused the cancellation of all routine operations and outpatient appointments.

The hospital says the "major incident" means patients should avoid visiting if possible.
Image: ZDNet

View the original article from ZDNet here.

The Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust says a "major incident" has been caused by a "computer virus" which infected its electronic systems on Sunday. As a result of the attack, the hospital has taken the decision to shut down the majority of its computer networks in order to combat the virus.

"A virus infected our electronic systems [on Sunday] and we have taken the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of our systems so we can isolate and destroy it," said Dr Karen Dunderdale, the trust's deputy chief executive, according to the BBC.

The use of a shared IT system also means the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has been taken offline as staff attempt to combat the attack.

As a result of the attack, all outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures that were set to take place at the infected hospitals on Monday and Tuesday have been cancelled, while medical emergencies involving major trauma and women in high-risk labor are being diverted to neighboring hospitals.

The NHS Trust hasn't provided specific information about the sort of virus or malware which has infected its systems -- or how it managed to breach any defenses.

The hospital says that from Wednesday appointments in some areas -- audiology psiological measurement, antenatal, community and therapy, chemotherapy, pediatrics, and gynecology -- will be going ahead and it will be contacting patients who are able to be seen.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust says it is reviewing the situation on an hourly basis and offers its apologies to patients who are being affected.

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 2016 Security Awareness

Throughout October, Technology Services will offer interactive educational activities to help you achieve those goals—for each activity you complete, you will be entered into a drawing at the end of the month for an Apple TV. As well, participation in each week’s activity will gain you access to the weekly drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card!
Watch CougarTrack for the weekly activity announcement!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Who's on the other end of that line? An imposter

Who's on the other end of that line? An imposter

In an imposter scam, fraudsters take on the identity of someone else -- a government agency, a sweepstakes company, or even a relative desperate for help -- to pressure victims into paying money for taxes, a prize, or a quick personal loan. Regardless of the ruse, these scams are designed to do one thing: quickly separate victims from their money.

Imagine the scenario: Your phone rings and the voice on the other end congratulates you for winning a sweepstakes. Great news, right?

Now imagine another scenario: You receive a call from someone claiming to be tech support for your computer. They say they’ve received reports that your machine may be infected with a virus and they need you to give them access so they can look into it.

Here’s an even worse thought: Your phone rings, but the caller says that they’re with the IRS, that you owe the government money, and that you will go to jail if you do not pay up immediately.

Depending on which scenario plays out on your phone line, you could be overjoyed or afraid. The odds are, however, that regardless of whether the caller says you’re a sweepstakes winner or that you owe the government money, you have just become a victim of one of the most popular scams around: the imposter scam.

In imposter scams, con artists pose as someone else -- the IRS, a sweepstakes company, or a long-lost relative in need. The caller might say they need money for unpaid “taxes” owed to the IRS, or “processing fees” to claim a prize, or “lawyers fees” to get a loved one out of a jam. The set-ups vary, but these high-pressure con artists are good at what they do -- convincing victims they need to pay up -- or hand over personal information -- in order to quickly resolve an issue.

If the victim agrees to pay, scammers typically ask for payment via a hard-to-track method such as a wire transfer, reloadable debit card, or iTunes gift card.

Unfortunately, these high pressure and often intimidating tactics appear to be working. Last year, these scams were the third most common complaint that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received, with more than 350,000 consumers reporting they’d fallen victim. They’re also one of the top scams that we hear about at year in and year out.

A consumer complaint we received at recently is typical of this scam. A grandfather in Florida received a phone call from a girl in tears pretending to be his granddaughter. His “granddaughter” said that she was arrested after an auto accident and that drugs were found in her car. The girl was supposedly overseas at the time and said that the American Embassy needed $1,150 to be wire transfered to her attorney overseas so that her lawyer could pay her bond, and then get her on an evening flight back home.

In this case and many others, the consumer fell victim to the imposter scam and lost the money he was tricked into sending the scam artist.

With the imposter scam coming in so many different variations, how can you and your loved ones learn to spot it and avoid becoming its next victim? Here are some basic tips you can use to help identify and protect yourself from a potential imposter scammer:
  1. You can’t trust Caller ID. Scammers are pro’s at tricking Caller ID systems into showing the caller information they want it to show. Just because the Caller ID says “IRS,” “police,” or “National Consumers League,” that does not guarantee that the person on the other end is with that organization.
  2. Don’t engage. Hang up. If you receive a call from someone urgently requesting money, don’t try and figure out whether they’re legitimate or not while they’re on the phone with you. Scammers are professionals who know exactly what buttons to push to get you to make a quick decision. The best thing you can do is simply hang up.
  3. Be careful of emails, too. Scammers also run the imposter scam over email. If you receive an email from someone demanding money right away, it’s probably a scam. Instead of replying, simply delete the email. Don’t click on any links or attachments that come with the email. They could contain malware that will infect your computer and steal your personal information.
  4. Look up the information on your own. If you’re concerned that the caller or email sender was for real, look up the phone number for the individual or agency in your phonebook or on the agency’s or company’s official website. Call that number yourself and check to see if what you were told by the caller is accurate.
  5. Never pay for a prize. If someone informs you that you won a prize, you should not have to pay any taxes, delivery fees, or insurance payments to collect it. If they tell you otherwise, it’s a scam.
  6. If asked for payment with a wire transfer, cash-reload card, or gift card--it’s a scam. These are all ways that scammers love to be paid because it’s practically impossible to track.
  7. Report suspected fraud. If you become a victim of an imposter scam or you suspect you have spotted one, report it! You can file a complaint at via our secure online complaint form. We’ll share your complaint with our network of more than 90 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can and do put fraudsters behind bars. The Federal Trade Commission also has many great resources on imposter scams available
  8. Print our Avoid Imposter Scams graphic and leave it by your phone to help loved ones know what to do in case they receive a call.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

HHS Office of Civil Rights and $15 Million in HIPAA Settlement Payments in 2016

HHS Office of Civil Rights and $15 Million in HIPAA Settlement Payments in 2016

For years, many questioned whether the HIPAA privacy and security rules would be enforced. The agency responsible for enforcement, Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), promised it would enforce the rules, but just after a period “soft” enforcement and compliance assistance. That period appears to be ending. During the first seven months of 2016, OCR has announced nearly $15,000,000 in settlement payments to the agency relating to a wide range of compliance failures alleged against covered entities and business associates. At the same time, OCR is conducting audits of covered entities around the country, and plans similar audits of business associates later this year. If you have been waiting to tackle HIPAA compliance, it is probably a good time to get it done.

Below is a summary of the circumstances that led to some of the settlements and civil monetary penalties:
  • Stolen laptop, vulnerable wireless access. Following notification to OCR of a breach involving a stolen laptop (not an uncommon occurrence!), OCR investigated and reported discovering that electronic protected health information (ePHI) on the covered entity’s network drive was vulnerable to unauthorized access via its wireless network – users could access 67,000 files after entering a generic username and password. OCR also cited among other things failures to implement policies and procedures to prevent, detect, contain, and correct security violations, to implement certain physical safeguards. Settlement $2.75M
  • Vulnerabilities identified must be timely addressed. In another case, a covered entity had conducted a number of risk analyses since 2003, but the OCR claimed these analyses did not cover all ePHI at the entity. OCR also reported that the covered entity did not act timely to implement measures to address documented risks and vulnerabilities, nor did it implement a mechanism to encrypt and decrypt ePHI or an equivalent alternative measure, despite having identified this lack of encryption as a risk. Settlement $2.7M.
  • Not-for-profits serving underserved communities not immune. A data breach affecting just over 400 persons caused by the theft of a company-issued iPhone triggered an OCR investigation. The iPhone was unencrypted and was not password protected, and contained extensive ePHI including SSNs, medical diagnosis, and names of family members and legal guardians. According to OCR, among other things, the covered entity had no policies addressing the removal of mobile devices containing PHI from its facility or what to do in the event of a security incident. In its public announcement, OCR acknowledged that the $650,000 settlement was afterconsidering that the covered entity provides unique and much-needed services to elderly, developmentally disabled individuals, young adults aging out of foster care, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
  • No business associate agreement. When a covered entity’s business associate experienced a breach affecting over 17,000 patients, OCR again investigated. It claimed no business associate agreement was in place, leaving PHI without safeguards and vulnerable to misuse or improper disclosure. Settlement $750,000.
  • Civil monetary penalties against home care provider. In only the second time OCR has sought civil penalties under HIPAA, a judge awarded $239,800 in penalties due to privacy and security compliance failures. In this case, a patient complaint led to an OCR investigation – the patient complained that an employee of the covered entity left PHI in places where an unauthorized persons had access and in some cases abandoned the information altogether. Other compliance issues included covered entity’s maintaining inadequate policies and procedures to safeguard PHI taken offsite, and storing PHI in employee vehicles for extended periods of time.
It is true that these are only a handful of cases with large settlement amounts. But the agency does seem to be sending a message – that is, it wants to see compliance and it is not afraid to seek significant settlement amounts from covered entities or business associates, large or small. In some cases, relatively simple steps such as making sure to have business associate agreements in place, can help avoid these kinds of enforcement actions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Incidents of Ransomware on the Rise

Incidents of Ransomware on the Rise: Protect Yourself and Your Organization

Hospitals, school districts, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, small businesses, large businesses—these are just some of the entities impacted recently by ransomware, an insidious type of malware that encrypts, or locks, valuable digital files and demands a ransom to release them.

The inability to access the important data these kinds of organizations keep can be catastrophic in terms of the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, the disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and the potential harm to an organization’s reputation.

And, of course, home computers are just as susceptible to ransomware, and the loss of access to personal and often irreplaceable items—including family photos, videos, and other data—can be devastating for individuals as well.

Ransomware has been around for a few years, but during 2015, law enforcement saw an increase in these types of cyber attacks, particularly against organizations because the payoffs are higher. And if the first three months of this year are any indication, the number of ransomware incidents—and the ensuing damage they cause—will grow even more in 2016 if individuals and organizations don’t prepare for these attacks in advance.

In a ransomware attack, victims—upon seeing an e-mail addressed to them—will open it and may click on an attachment that appears legitimate, like an invoice or an electronic fax, but which actually contains the malicious ransomware code. Or the e-mail might contain a legitimate-looking URL, but when a victim clicks on it, they are directed to a website that infects their computer with malicious software.

One the infection is present, the malware begins encrypting files and folders on local drives, any attached drives, backup drives, and potentially other computers on the same network that the victim computer is attached to. Users and organizations are generally not aware they have been infected until they can no longer access their data or until they begin to see computer messages advising them of the attack and demands for a ransom payment in exchange for a decryption key. These messages include instructions on how to pay the ransom, usually with bitcoins because of the anonymity this virtual currency provides.

Ransomware attacks are not only proliferating, they’re becoming more sophisticated. Several years ago, ransomware was normally delivered through spam e-mails, but because e-mail systems got better at filtering out spam, cyber criminals turned to spear phishing e-mails targeting specific individuals.

And in newly identified instances of ransomware, some cyber criminals aren’t using e-mails at all. According to FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Trainor, “These criminals have evolved over time and now bypass the need for an individual to click on a link. They do this by seeding legitimate websites with malicious code, taking advantage of unpatched software on end-user computers.”

The FBI doesn’t support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. Said Trainor, “Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee an organization that it will get its data back—we’ve seen cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom. Paying a ransom not only emboldens current cyber criminals to target more organizations, it also offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And finally, by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.”

So what does the FBI recommend? As ransomware techniques and malware continue to evolve—and because it’s difficult to detect a ransomware compromise before it’s too late—organizations in particular should focus on two main areas:
  • Prevention efforts—both in both in terms of awareness training for employees and robust technical prevention controls; and
  • The creation of a solid business continuity plan in the event of a ransomware attack. (See sidebar for more information.) 
“There’s no one method or tool that will completely protect you or your organization from a ransomware attack,” said Trainor. “But contingency and remediation planning is crucial to business recovery and continuity—and these plans should be tested regularly.” In the meantime, according to Trainor, the FBI will continue working with its local, federal, international, and private sector partners to combat ransomware and other cyber threats.
If you think you or your organization have been the victim of ransomware, contact your local FBI field office and report the incident to the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.