Why Africans should be worried about PETYA 0 296

  • The malicious software has been identified as a modified version of a previously known ransomware, called Petya or Petrwrap, that has been substantially altered.
  • Due to its unique characteristics, it has been dubbed as NotPetya and ExPetya, which is currently detected by ESET as Win32/Diskcoder.C Trojan.
  • NotPetya can be termed as a worm, which can self-replicate across multiple networks. Petya uses two primary methods to spread across networks. Execution across network shares and SMB exploits
  • The current global ransomware trend utilises the EternalBlue Exploit in order to take advantage of the vast use of the Windows Operating System.
  • More than 80% of enterprise servers and endpoints in the African Digital Economy run on the Windows Operating System.
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It all begins with the MS17-010 Exploit

The EternalBlue Exploit, otherwise known as MS17-010, developed by the NSA and pilfered by the Shadow Brokers continues to open opportunities for malicious malware authors as fresh ransomware attacks continue to ravage Europe while spreading through the globe at an alarming pace.

Notably, it has become evident that in the realm of cybersecurity, the adage of once bitten, twice shy, seldom applies as unpatched computer systems have been utilised for a second time by cybercriminals to achieve exponential infection rates, reminiscent of the WannaCry nightmare that the globe experienced only two months ago.

NotPetya

The malicious software has been identified as a modified version of a previously known ransomware, called Petya or Petrwrap, that has been substantially altered, prompting a debate among researchers over whether it is new malware.

Due to its unique characteristics, it has been dubbed as NotPetya and ExPetya, which is currently detected by ESET as Win32/Diskcoder.C Trojan. If it successfully infects the MBR (Master Boot Record), it will encrypt the whole drive itself. Otherwise, it encrypts all files, like Mischa.

How does NotPetya replicate?

In many ways, NotPetya can be termed as a worm, which can self-replicate across multiple networks. Petya uses two primary methods to spread across networks. These include:

  • Execution across network shares: It attempts to spread to the target computers by copying itself to [COMPUTER NAME]\\admin$ using the acquired credentials. It is then executed remotely using either PsExec or the Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC) tool. Both are legitimate tools.
  • SMB exploits: It attempts to spread using variations of the EternalBlue and EternalRomance exploits.

Crucially, NotPetya seeks to gain administrator access on a machine and then leverages that power to commandeer other computers on the network: it takes advantage of the fact that far too many organizations employ flat networks in which an administrator on one endpoint can control other machines, or sniff domain admin credentials present in memory, until total control over the Windows network is achieved. It achieves primary access through using phishing techniques to trick administrators into running the malware with high privileges.

What institutions have been adversely affected?

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The most severe damage is being reported by Ukrainian businesses, with systems compromised at Ukraine’s central bank, state telecom, municipal metro, and Kiev’s Boryspil Airport. Systems were also compromised at Ukraine’s Ukrenego electricity supplier, although a spokesperson said the power supply was unaffected by the attack. The attack has even affected operations at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has switched to manual radiation monitoring as a result of the attack.

Infections have also been reported in more isolated devices like point-of-sale terminals and ATMs. The virus has also spread internationally. The Danish shipping company Maersk has also reported systems down across multiple sites, including the company’s Russian logistics arm Damco.

The virus also reached servers for the Russian oil company Rosneft, although it’s unclear how much damage was incurred. There have also been several recorded cases in the United States, including the pharmaceutical company Merck, a Pittsburgh-area hospital, and the US offices of law firm DLA Piper.

The attacks have been indiscriminate across every vulnerable vertical as institution after institution falls short against the unique threat posed by NotPetya.

Why Africans should be concerned about the current global ransomware trend

The current global ransomware trend, of utilising the EternalBlue Exploit in order to take advantage of the vast use of the Windows Operating System should send chills down the spines of any executive worth his salt in the African Digital Market for the following reasons.

Firstly, more than 80% of enterprise servers and endpoints in the African Digital Economy run on the Windows Operating System, thus exposing majority of our organisations to the next-generational strains of ransomware being designed by savvy malware authors. Moreover, a significant percentage of these Windows systems are run on legacy platforms such as XP and Windows Vista which exponentially increase the probability that these systems are probably unpatched.

Secondly, there is an astounding number of citizens who are unaware of the cybersecurity risks present within their daily lives. Kenya, serves as a key example to the plight of the African digital economy. With an 85.3% internet penetration rate, Kenya boasts a wealth of 37.7m netizens, actively contributing to their digital ecosystem.

Moreover, due to the proliferation of mobile banking, internet banking continues to rise within the region. However, contrary to logical perception, about 90% of Kenya’s netizens remain unaware of the increased cyber risks within their digital market. This poses a unique and advanced risk as ransomware’s primary source of entry is through A

In conclusion, new strains of ransomware seem to tactically replicate across networks utilising unpatched Windows systems and untrained company personnel through phishing e-mails to wreak havoc across targeted networks. The African Digital Economy is especially vulnerable to these risks as they exploit our unique weaknesses.

Our recommendations:

  1. Invest in new-school cybersecurity awareness training.
  2. Deploy reputable endpoint protection.
  3. Strengthen your business continuity capabilities.
  4. Evaluate and Patch Installed Software.
  5. Monitor access rights.
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Coming to terms with cyber security nightmare 0 195

Teddy Njoroge

Last year internet security companies made forecasts about possible cyber-threats to really worry about this year. This we followed with measures that companies and individuals needed to take to ensure a cyber-safe 2018. Paramount among these was the need for proactive use of protective software tools as well as sensitisation and training of users about these threats.

True to predictions, 2018 started with a scenario hardly anyone could have foreseen. Two serious design vulnerabilities in Computer Central Processing Units (CPUs) were exposed that could enable cyber-criminals to steal sensitive or private information such as passwords, documents and photos among other data from unsecured devices.

The “Meltdown and Spectre” CPU vulnerabilities point to a much larger underlying issue. Software bugs and hardware bugs are more common than not, but these once identified can be fixed fairly easily with either a software patch or firmware update for hardware issues.

However, as it turns out this is not possible with these two vulnerabilities as they are caused by a design flaw in the hardware architecture, only fixable by replacing the actual hardware. And that is where the problems begin.

CPUs of affected manufacturers such as AMD, ARM, Intel, among others appear in a lot of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and which are scattered all over the globe.

According to ARM, they are already “securing” a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) devices. Granted, not all ARM CPUs are affected, but if even 0.1 per cent of them are, it still means a billion (1,000,000,000) affected devices.

Due to the huge costs involved, it is not feasible to replace all these faulty CPUs. In reality people will keep their existing devices until end of their life cycles, for years even.

Deployed for countless and diverse applications in the households or offices, once operational many owners have most likely forgotten that they have them and which inherently leaves a giant gap for cybercriminals to exploit.

Any Wi-Fi-controlled device such as refrigerator, digital picture frames, Smart TVs, DVRs and PVRs etc., potentially provides opportunity for sensitive data to be lost. For example, a compromised Wi-Fi password for any of these can make it possible for anyone to hack your home or office network thus giving automatic access to any other connected platform such as emails, social media pages and even shared cloud or archive platforms.

Even though to get access to your IoT device, a would be attacker needs to have compromised the internet network already, or even the applications running on the device, we know that cyber-criminals just like a pack of wolves will not relent after smelling blood.

As a warning, when you are buying a new IoT device, ensure to check which CPU it is running on, and if that CPU is affected by these vulnerabilities.

 

Meltdown and Spectre 0 300

 Microsoft released Security Advisory 18002 on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 to mitigate a major vulnerability to Windows in modern CPU architectures. ESET released Antivirus and Antispyware module 1533.3 the same day to all customers to ensure that use of our products would not affect compatibility with Microsoft’s patch.

The first few days of 2018 have been filled with anxious discussions concerning a widespread and wide-ranging vulnerability in the architecture of processors based on Intel’s Core architecture used in PCs for many years, as well as processors from AMD, and even affecting ARM processors commonly used in tablets and smartphones.

The good news is that ESET can help protect against the types of malware that could take advantage of these vulnerabilities.

And, ESET was one of the very first security vendors to allow the Microsoft patch against the flaw to be enabled.

While ESET protects against potential malware infection, you should also take these steps to secure your computers and data:

  • Make sure your browser is up to date. For Chrome or Firefox users:
    • Mozilla has released information describing their response, including how Firefox 57 will address these security flaws.
    • Google has stated, “Chrome 64, due to be released January 23, will contain mitigations to protect against exploitation.” In the meantime, you can enable “Site Isolation” found in current stable versions of Chrome to provide better protection.
  • Make sure you update your ESET software, then update your Windows OS to protect against this exploit. To update ESET:
  • Customers should review ESET’s Knowledgebase article for important updates.
  • See this great collection of tips, articles and recommendations from the Google Project Zero team.
  • If you have a cloud-based server or have a website hosted by hosting provider, check to see what mitigations they have implemented already to prevent Meltdown.