Connect with us


Preventing, Mitigating Ransomware with Cyber Situational Awareness



cyber attack.jpg

If you’re familiar with mafia movies then you’re familiar with extortion – the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.

Extortion has been around for centuries – well before “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas.” Even cyber extortion, which extends this criminal activity into the digital world, isn’t new.

What is new, however, is the wide variety of methods that are used by the bad guys to get their money.

Three main tactics are behind cyber extortion: the threat of distributed denial of service (DDoS), the threat of data compromise and ransomware.

DDoS attacks are one of the most popular means to facilitate extortion. These types of attacks typically target business-critical websites in order to increase the likelihood of payment, usually via Bitcoin (BTC), and can have crippling effects on organizations.

In certain cases, such as when targeting hosting providers, the threat actor may add more pressure to pay by using the negative publicity associated with service downtime as a threat.

A second method of extortion involves the potential release of compromised data. This method is dependent on the fact that the target’s data has already been compromised.

The threat of its release to the public domain is used as blackmail in order to extort money from the affected entity.

A third type of extortion, and the one most often in the news as of late, is ransomware – malicious software (malware) that restricts access to the computer system it has infected.

The malware demands that a ransom be paid before restoring access to affected resources.

Ransomware can prevent access to many features of a victim’s machine, including files, applications and the operating system itself.

Because ransomware is an ever-evolving threat that can be more challenging to address than other cyber extortion tactics, let’s take a closer look at how it works and how to prevent and mitigate it.

At a high-level, the ransomware process is fairly standard. Files are encrypted and the attackers, who hold the decryption key, will only allow the target to decrypt the files after the required BTC ransom is paid. Specific details of the attack, however, will depend on the variant.

Until recently ransomware has been delivered most commonly via drive-by-downloads from exploit kits, or through spam emails that either contain malicious attachments or encourage recipients to visit websites hosting malicious content.

But we see that starting to change with threat actors using more targeted methods to achieve their objective, such as spear-phishing emails purporting to be from a job applicant or including the name, job title and job-relevant information of the recipient.

 The disclosure that some organizations are paying the fee to unencrypt data likely provides further motivation for these types of attacks. In fact, when the actor estimates there’s a high likelihood of payment of the ransom fee they invest in more reconnaissance which can further increase the likelihood of infection.

As ransomware becomes big business, research on the dark web reveals a number of services being advertised to make it easy for beginners with low technical understanding to execute ransomware attacks with success.

Everything they need is available on a USB stick for $1,200 or they can take advantage of a hosted service in return for 5 percent commission on the ransom payments received.

So how can you combat cyber extortion? Cyber situational awareness can give you greater insights into the tools and processes used by actors that employ DDoS-based extortion and compromised data release extortion.

Advanced knowledge of the typical demands of a threat actor and their capabilities can help you make difficult decisions if presented with such a scenario and help you prevent future attacks.

Mitigating ransomware threats is more complex. It requires a combination of technical and process controls and company-wide engagement – from employees, to executives, to IT security teams. Cyber situational awareness can help you understand the infection vectors of the malware and apply the appropriate security controls to mitigate the risk of infection.

This includes insights you can use to raise staff awareness of how ransomware attacks occur and help you devise technical and procedural controls to prevent infection and to develop ransomware response procedures in the case of infection.

Of course ensuring that backups are maintained and are separate from the network can increase resilience to such attacks. In addition, several decryption tools have been released but, in the cat and mouse game between ransomware and such tools, their effectiveness tends to be short-lived; ransomware developers are continuously developing encryption methods to evade them.

As defenders, staying up-to-date with the latest trends and innovation can be hard, but it is essential in order to effectively prevent and mitigate the effects of extortion on your business.

With cyber situational awareness you can learn about the actors involved in extortion and their tactics, tools and motivations. With this knowledge you can more effectively align your defenses and make better decisions in the face of an attack.

Alastair Paterson, CEO and Co-Founder of Digital Shadows


Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

Continue Reading


Konga Appoints Ijogun Chairman



Olusiji Ijogun

Konga, Nigeria’s leading e-commerce giant, has announced the appointment of frontline corporate guru, Olusiji Ijogun as Chairman.


The appointment takes effect from April 1st, 2018.


Konga has dominated the news recently after its recent acquisition by the Zinox Group, Nigeria’s foremost technology conglomerate, in a move that several industry watchers believe will position the company on a stronger footing and raise the profile of e-commerce in Nigeria.


A seasoned and widely experienced technocrat, Ijogun boasts over three decades of top-notch performance in finance and management which he has brought to bear on the fortunes of a number of thriving businesses across various sectors.


His sterling career has seen him hold several top positions including Senior Group Manager, Unilever Audit, Divisional Managing Director, UAC Foods, Group Finance Director, UAC of Nigeria Plc and Commercial Director, Lever Egypt. He was appointed to the Board of Honeywell Group where he positioned the Group in the foods sector of the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) segment.


Mr. Ijogun holds a B.Sc (Hons.) degree from the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Cost and Management Accountants UK and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. He currently serves as the Chairman of Ackmen Nigeria Limited and CEO of Innodel Consulting


His wealth of experience across several brands and sectors is expected to come in handy in positioning Konga on a path of sound corporate governance and a greater share of the e-commerce market in Nigeria and beyond.

Continue Reading


JAMB Warns as Fraudster Urges UTME Candidates to Pay for Scores ‘Upgrades’



As the writing of the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination came to an end on Friday, fraudsters have invaded the Internet, asking candidates to call some numbers through which they could “upgrade” their results.


In a post shared on social media on Sunday, one Mr. Magaji who calls himself JAMB Upgrade Director, urged candidates to call his alleged telephone number 09038747733 for payment instructions for the “upgrade” of their results.


He goes ahead to provide names of candidates and their alleged scores which were supposedly upgraded from low marks to high ones.


The impostor writes in bad grammar unexpected of any official of an examination body whatsoever:


“Attention, attention, attention. This is to inform those who score below 180 in JAMB, the exam board has officially release the upgrading system for those who did not do well.


“Scores has already been upgraded. Congratulations to these following names for your result has been upgraded, please contact upgrading board on 09038747733 Mr. Magaji or WhatsApp me.


“Note: you have to see your previous result before payment.”


The fraud then proceeds to provide what he calls candidates’ names, their previous scores and the ‘upgraded’ ones.


He writes, “You can check your name out — Desmond Samuel 111-280; Chukwu Glory 174-320; Loveth Jude 144-290; Adams Godstime 123-322; William Samson 136-290; Akpan Johnson 156-312; Roland Felicia 170-285; Emeka Queen 171-384; Vivian Hudson 163-299; Mary God’swill 152-321; Doris Gabriel 122-291; Adams Chuka 132-242.


He then calls on UTME candidates who wish to upgrade their results, saying, “If you wish to upgrade your JAMB score, please contact JAMB Upgrading Director (09038747733). Thank you.”


When contacted, JAMB spokesperson, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, warned that the information is false in its entirety.


Benjamin said, “Obviously, this fraud is so ignorant and she or he definitely misunderstood the 2016 incident in which the parameters used for the examination were wrong and therefore had to be corrected.


“In the process of transforming the grades of candidates for the 2016 exams, the examiners used the wrong parameters.


“What we call ‘transformation’ is actually a measurement instrument. So, when we discovered the problem, we did the right transformation but people took it out of proportion to interpret it as addition or subtraction of marks. We only did the right thing.


“It was never an upgrade, as this fraud and others in his category deemed it to be.


“Even in the 2016 incident, the candidates affected were not up to 60,000 out of the 1.5 million that wrote the exams.”


Benjamin warned that no one should listen to the lie, saying that the examination body is busy reviewing the CCTVs in each of this year’s exam centres to ascertain how much candidates and supervisors complied with rules and regulations.


“The CCTVs will reveal any infractions that the supervisors might not have noticed.


“Once we are satisfied with the review, the results will be released without any delay.”


He said the results of over 1.2 million candidates are currently being collated, and that as such, no one can possibly claim to be in charge of any upgrade whatsoever.


He said, “There could be nothing called results upgrade because in JAMB, no one fails or passes. It is a selection exam, which is dependent on general performance.


“Though you may not score enough to get you admitted into a tertiary institution, no one fails.”


He disclosed that the cut-off point for the 2018 exam would likely be 180 or 190.


He also said the results would be released late Monday evening or early Tuesday morning.

Continue Reading


FG to Use ICT to Curb Unemployment



Dr. Isa Pantami, Director General of NITDA

Federal government has said it is aware of difficulties in securing white-collar jobs by youths in the country and this has compelled it to look inward to build technology entrepreneurs.


This was revealed by Dr. Isa Pantami, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency ([NITDA), during the ninth edition of Startup Friday event for Akwa Ibom youths in Uyo, the state capital.


According to him, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become inevitable. The future of the country’s youths depends on ICT.


The Director General said the Startup Friday programme was created to encourage every Nigerian to look inward in tackling

Nigeria’s economic problems, stressing that, “ICT is the global driver of all aspects of the economy”.


“We are aware of the harsh condition in securing white-collar jobs in the country. So, it has become apparent for the government to focus more in building technology entrepreneurs. A developed indigenous ICT eco-system would help the country to diversify its economy from oil.


“Data is the new oil. With the two local content-related Presidential Orders, we need to focus on locally-produced innovations for our local markets. NITDA intends to encourage and support ICT entrepreneurship and promote it as an attractive career option for the teeming youths”, he said.


He said the startup was brought to Akwa Ibom to encourage the youths to eke a living through ICT, adding that plans had reached advance stage to establish a Digital Job Centre in the state.




Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017 Communication Week Media Limited.