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Microsoft 365 Services Restored After Hours Long Outage


Recently Microsoft was hit with a massive global outage that interrupted users’ access to multiple services including Outlook.com, Office 365, Teams, Exchange, Azure, OneDrive Dynamics 365, SharePoint, amid other cloud-based services.

As per the Azure status history page, the users who were trying to access any of Microsoft’s services encountered issues with logging in and server connection as the downtime started around 21:25 UTC on Monday.


The service interruptions had a rather short lifetime, lasting for several hours before Microsoft technicians fixed the issue and successfully rolled back their systems on Tuesday.

In current times of global pandemic wherein physical access for people is restricted all over the world, the outage of online services has proven to be even more disruptive as the number of people relying on it for work and studies has sprung up by a remarkable margin. As classrooms moved online, students and educational institutions are heavily dependent on services offered by Microsoft and Google, primarily.

Giving insights on the matter, Microsoft said “Users who were not already authenticated to the cloud services using Azure AD would have seen multiple authentication request failures. The impact was primarily in the Americas based on the issue being exacerbated by load, but users in other regions may also have experienced some impact. Users that had previously authenticated prior to the issue may not have experienced any noticeable effect.”

Acknowledging the issue, Microsoft 365 Status said in a tweet, “we’ve received reports of users experiencing issues accessing their Exchange Online accounts via Outlook on the Web. Our initial investigation indicates that India-based users are primarily impacted audience. Further details can be found in your admin center under EX223208.”

“We took corrective actions to mitigate the impact to Exchange ActiveSync and have confirmed that service has been restored after users force a sync on their impacted devices. More information can be found under EX223053 in the admin portal.” Microsoft 365 Status said in another tweet.

The issues affecting Microsoft’s online authentication systems have been resolved by the company and the services are restored. Most users reported their system being fully recovered and services functioning normally again.

Microsoft Suffered A Rare Cyber-Security Lapse When One of Bing's Backend Servers Were Exposed Online

 

Microsoft endured a rather rare cyber-security lapse just this month when the company's IT staff incidentally left one of Bing's backend servers exposed on the web. 

Discovered by Ata Hakcil, a security researcher at WizCase, only imparted his discoveries to ZDNet the previous week. As per Hakcil's investigation, the server is said to have exposed more than 6.5 TB of log documents containing 13 billion records coming from the Bing search engine.

Hakcil said the server was exposed from September 10 to September 16, when he initially had informed the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), and the server was made secure one more time with a password. 

The Wizcase researcher had the option to check and re-check his discoveries by finding search queries he performed in the Bing Android app in the server's logs.

 
Microsoft admitted to committing this mistake and commented last week, 

"We've fixed a misconfiguration that caused a small amount of search query data to be exposed," a Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet in an email last week. After analysis, we've determined that the exposed data was limited and de-identified." ZDNet, which was provided access to the server while it was exposed without a password, can affirm that no personal user info was made public. 

Rather, the server exposed specialized details, like search inquiries, details regarding the client's system (device, OS, browser, etc.), geo-location details (wherever accessible), and various tokens, hashes, and coupon codes.
The leaky server was distinguished as an Elasticsearch system. Elasticsearch servers are high-grade systems where organizations collect huge amounts of information to handily search and channel through billions of records easily. 

Throughout the previous four years, Elasticsearch servers have frequently been the source of numerous coincidental information leaks. 

The reasons are known to fluctuate and can go from administrators neglecting to set a password; firewalls or VPN frameworks unexpectedly going down and uncovering an organization's normally-internal servers; or organizations duplicating production data to test systems that aren't always secured as rigorously as their essential infrastructure.

New Windows Vulnerability Allows Domain Takeover, Microsoft Released Patch



A new vulnerability named Zerologon has been identified by cybersecurity organization, Secura who tracked the high rated vulnerability as CVE-2020-1472; it allows attackers to gain admin control of a Windows domain, inducing the ability to steal credentials from individual Windows account.

In order to exploit Zerologon, the attacker is required to be on the network, access to which can be acquired by various methods such as phishing, drive-by exploits or etc.

The attacker disables security features that protect the Netlogen process and change a system's password linked with its Active Directory account. Zerologon exploits a weak cryptographic algorithm used in the Netlogon authentication process, as per the expert findings at Secura.

While exploiting the vulnerability and attempting to authenticate against the domain controller, the bug impersonates the identity of any computer on a network and disables security features. In order to obtain domain administrator access to carry out malicious activities, the attacker needs to connect to a domain controller through a Netlogon secure channel connection. The attack is carried out swiftly, lasting not more than three seconds.

In August 2020, Microsoft effectively disrupted the operations of numerous companies in the patching process that took place in two phases and finally released patches for a severe 10/10 rated security flaw that was described as an elevation of privilege in Netlogon. The task has been an arduous one for Microsoft.

In their blog post on Zerologon, Secura explained, "It would not be necessary to wait for some other user to attempt to log in. Instead, the attacker can login themselves, pretending to only support NTLM and providing some invalid password. The service they are logging in to will forward the NTLM handshake to the domain controller and the domain controller would reply with a negative response. This message could then be replaced by a spoofed reply (also containing a recalculated session key) indicating that the password was correct and, by the way, the user trying to log in happened to be a member of the domain admin group (meaning they also have administrative privileges on the target machine),"

"This vulnerability can be particularly dangerous when an attacker has a foothold in an internal network because it allows for both elevation of privileges (to local admin) and lateral movement (gaining RCE on other machines on the network)," the blog post further read.



TikTok owner Chinese company clarifies to Microsoft that it would not be its new owner

 

Following President Donald Trump's executive order that labeled the video-sharing application TikTok as a "national emergency", its owner has a September 15 deadline decided to either sell the app to a US company or see the service banned completely banned from the US market.

Be that as it may, Microsoft had already stepped in the race before the official announcement came from the president, saying it was interested in taking up TikTok and incorporate "world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections" to the app if it did. 

By uniting with Walmart to co-bid for the Chinese company's US, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand operations. 

Microsoft authorities dubbed the conversations as "preliminary", highlighting that it was not planning to give any further updates on the discussions until there was a definitive result. ByteDance, the Chinese multinational internet technology, said it would exclude TikTok's algorithm as a feature of the sale, as per a South China Morning Post report, and further clarified to Microsoft that it would not be its new owner.

Sunday's blog post emphasized what Microsoft has expressed right from the beginning - that the potential procurement would have required "significant changes" to the application's present status. 

The company moreover explained in a blog post, "ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok's US operations to Microsoft, we are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok's users while protecting national security interests." 

"To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement.." 

Nonetheless, following Microsoft's bid, Oracle has also started holding discussions with ByteDance, indicating its interest in the video-sharing application. 


The Wall Street Journal on Monday morning revealed that Oracle would soon be announced as TikTok's "trusted tech partner" and that the video-sharing platform's sale would not actually be organized as an acquisition. 

Meanwhile, Tik Tok affirms that it would launch a lawsuit against the US government concerning its ban. Any possible lawsuit, however, would not keep the company from being constrained to auction the application in the US market.

Microsoft Confirms Cyber-Attacks on Biden and Trump Campaigns

Microsoft reports breaching of email accounts belonging to individuals associated with the Biden and Trump election campaigns by Chinese, Iranian, and Russian state-sponsored hackers. 

Tom Burt, Corporate VP for Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft, revealed the occurrences in a detailed blog post after Reuters announced about a portion of the Russian attacks against the Biden camp. 

"Most of these assaults" were recognized and blocked, which is what he added later and revealed in the blog post with respect to the additional attacks and furthermore affirmed a DNI report from August that asserted that Chinese and Iranian hackers were likewise focusing on the US election process.

 As indicated by Microsoft, the attacks conducted by Russian hackers were connected back to a group that the organization has been tracking under the name of Strontium and the cybersecurity industry as APT28 or Fancy Bear. 

 While Strontium generally carried out the spear-phishing email attacks, as of late, the group has been utilizing 'brute-force' and password spraying techniques as an integral technique to breaching accounts. 

Then again, the attacks by Iranian hackers originated from a group tracked as Phosphorous (APT35, Charming Kitten, and the Ajax Security Group). 

These attacks are a continuation of a campaign that began a year ago, and which Microsoft recognized and cautioned about in October 2019. At that point, Microsoft cautioned that the hackers focused on "a 2020 US presidential campaign" yet didn't name which one. 

Through some open-source detective work, a few individuals from the security community later linked the attacks to the Trump campaign. 

What's more, only a couple of days back Microsoft affirmed that the attacks are indeed focused on the Trump campaign, yet in addition unveiled a new activity identified with the said group. The attacks were likewise identified by Chinese groups. 

While presently there are several hacking groups that are assumed to work under orders and the security of the Chinese government, Microsoft said that the attacks focusing on US campaigns originated from a group known as Zirconium (APT31), which is a similar group that Google spotted not long ago, in June. 

Microsoft says it detected thousands of attacks coordinated by this group between March 2020 and September 2020, with the hackers accessing almost some 150 accounts during that time period.


Anubis Malware that Attacks Windows Users


In a recent cybersecurity incident, Microsoft reports of a new malware called 'Anubis.' Anubis is not related to any banking malware and is famous for attacking windows systems and devices. Recently, the MSI Microsoft Security Intelligence discovered a new window malware. Anubis is capable of stealing windows users' data and has a high threat level. Detailed analysis revealed that the malware triggers the coding of 'Loki' malware responsible for stealing data. The Loki malware came out a few years ago and wreaked hell as infamous ransomware.


According to Microsoft, "the new malware shares a name with an unrelated family of Android banking malware. Anubis is deployed in what appears to be limited, initial campaigns that have so far only used a handful of known download URLs and C2 servers." On its Twitter account, according to Microsoft's tweet, it found a new malware named Anubis, that was roaming in the wild until now. Currently, Anubi has only a limited target, and its range of attacks is also little. "Anubis is deployed in what appears to be limited, initial campaigns that have so far only used a handful of known download URLs and C2 servers," says MSI. Besides, the malware only targets windows systems. Hence, non-windows users are safe. Also, Microsoft defender can identify this malware. Therefore users are safe from Anubis. Another good news.

About Anubis 
Microsoft team first identified the malware in June, as of now, Anubis has become highly active. Having the same name Anubis, users shouldn't confuse it with another android trojan that bears the same name. The windows malware steals user information, including financial data, system data, cryptocurrency wallets, login credentials, and personal information, whereas the android trojan is only a banking malware.

The MSI team is yet to confirm how Anubis is attacking its targets. Therefore, every windows user, for now, should be alert while downloading any 3rd party application/softwares, suspicious emails, etc. The users should also use premium software that guarantees safety against malware. If you're not a Windows user, you needn't worry. The company will update its users if it finds more details about the malware.

Microsoft's new report suggest a rapid transformation in cyber security due to the pandemic

 In just two months of the pandemic, the digital world went through "two years worth of digital transformation" according to Microsoft and to compute these changes the company did a survey of 800 leaders from companies with more than 500 employees from the United States, United Kingdom, India, and Germany. The report circumcises the pandemic threat landscape, the long term cybersecurity, budget, staffing, and the adjustments companies did to update their security.


The crux of the matter remains that the pandemic bought on a  multitude of attacks and scams but the very thing strengthened the need for better cybersecurity and many businesses realized this and overall we saw a grave change where digital security is concerned.

According to Microsoft's report following are the changes bought on in cybersecurity by the global pandemic in the long term-

Security as a prime factor in Digital Empathy
With scales of business going WFH (work from home), business leaders quickly realized better security is more productive and drives a better end-to-end experience. For most business leaders the main aim was to improve user experience and productivity thus investing in cybersecurity with VPNs and Multi-factor authentications. The reports show a considerable increase in cybersecurity investments in the surveyed countries since the beginning of the pandemic.

Zero Trust Journey
According to csooonline.com, "Zero Trust is a security concept centered on the belief that organizations should not automatically trust anything inside or outside its perimeters and instead must verify anything and everything trying to connect to its systems before granting access." Earlier, this Zero Trust capability was an option, now this has become the priority and everyone's on it for a much secure and private environment inside the database of the company.

More Database, Better Threat Intelligence
The pandemic highlighted the advantages of cloud backups and threat tracking. Microsoft tracked around 8 Million threats daily from around the world due to the diverse and large data input. With the help of automated tools, human insights, and large data, many threats could be tracked and stopped before they reached the user. 

Cyber reliance key to business operations
Cyber Security is fundamental for efficient business operations and cyber resilience. For that remote workplace, businesses need to constantly update their security plans and threat assessment as well as employ end to end security solutions.

Microsoft reports, "More than half of cloud forward and hybrid companies report having cyber-resilience strategy for most risk scenarios compared to 40% of the primarily on-premises organization. 19% of companies relying primarily upon on-premises technology do not expect to maintain a documented cyber-resilience plan."

Cloud Security Solutions as Inevitable 
Nearly, 40% of organizations invested in cloud security solutions, followed by Data and Information Security (28%), Network Security(27%), and Anti-phishing tools (26%). Cloud not only protects data but also helps track security issues and provides overall integrated security.





  

A Provider of Cyber Security Training Loses 28,000 Items of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) In a Data Breach


A provider of cybersecurity training and certification services, 'The Sans Institute', lost roughly 28,000 items of personally identifiable information (PII) in a data breach that happened after a solitary staff part succumbed to a phishing attack. 

The organization discovered the leak on 6 August 2020, when it was leading a systematic review of its email configuration and rules. 

During this process, its IT group identified a dubious forwarding rule and a malignant Microsoft Office 365 add-in that together had the option to forward 513 emails from a particular individual's account to an unknown external email address before being detected. 

While the majority of these messages were innocuous, however, a number included files that contained information including email addresses, first and last names, work titles, company names and details, addresses, and countries of residence. 

Sans is currently directing a digital forensics investigation headed up by its own cybersecurity instructors and is working both to ensure that no other data was undermined and to recognize areas in which it can harden its systems. 

When the investigation is complete, the organization intends to impart all its findings and learnings to the extensive cybersecurity community. 

Lastly, Point3 Security strategy vice-president, Chloé Messdaghi, says that "Phishers definitely understand the human element, and they work to understand peoples’ pain points and passions to make their emails more compelling. They also know when to send a phishing email to drive immediate responses." 

And hence she concluded by adding that "The final takeaway is that we all need to stay aware and humble – if a phishing attack can snag someone at the Sans Institute, it can happen to any of us who let our guard down."

Prometei: A Cryptomining Botnet that Attacks Microsoft's Vulnerabilities


An unknown Botnet called "Prometei" is attacking windows and Microsoft devices (vulnerable) using brute force SMb exploits. According to Cisco Talos, these SMB vulnerabilities help in mining cryptocurrency. The botnet has affected around a thousand devices. It came in March; however, according to experts at Cisco Talos, the campaign could only generate a small amount of $5000 in four months of its activities. The botnet was working since the beginning of March and took a blow on 8th June. However, the botnet kept working on its mining operations to steal credentials. According to experts, the botnet is working for somebody based in Europe, a single developer.


"Despite their activities being visible in logs, some botnets successfully fly under detection teams' radar, possibly due to their small size or constant development on the adversary's part. Prometei is just one of these types of networks that focuses on Monero mining. It has been successful in keeping its computing power constant over the three months we've been tracking it," says Cisco Talo's report.
Vanja Svajcer, a cybersecurity expert, says that earning $1250 monthly is more than average for a European. Therefore, the developer would 've made a fair profit from the botnet. Besides crypto mining, it can also steal private credentials and escape without getting traced.

About SMB attack 

The hacker exploits the Windows Server Message Block protocol using a vulnerability. After this, the hackers retrieve passwords from Mimikatz, which is an open-source app for credential authentication. To spread itself in SMB protocol, the hackers use the RdpcIip.exe spreader module. This spreader tries to authenticate SMB operation using retrieved credentials or a temporary guest profile, which doesn't require any password. If the spreader can infiltrate, it uses a Windows app to launch the botnet remotely. But if the attack fails, the hackers can use other versions of vulnerabilities to start botnet.

To protect yourself, Cisco Talos says, "defenders need to be constantly vigilant and monitor systems' behavior within their network. Attackers are like water — they will attempt to find the smallest crack to seep in. While organizations need to be focused on protecting their most valuable assets, they should not ignore threats that are not particularly targeted toward their infrastructure."

Users Might be Under Risk of DNS Vulnerability


What is DNS?

It is an essential element in the network (online infrastructure) that allows users to watch or access content on the internet by building a link between an IP address and the respective website with the help of a database. Hackers can use it as an opportunity to disturb the service, which causes altering in the domain registrars. Also known as DNS hijacking, altering domain registrars can cause DDoS attacks, DNS Tunneling, cache position, etc.


About the DNS Risk 

  • In a recent incident, a cryptocurrency exchange Japanese company named Coincheck was a victim of DNS Hijacking. The attack costed the company exposure of around 200 clients' private information and e-mails. The hackers first altered the basic DNS entry by using the company's account and Oname.com- the company's domain registrar provider. After this, the hackers used a spear-phishing technique to steal information and e-mails from the 200 clients. 


  • In another DNS hijacking incident last month, a group of experts from Israel found an "NXNS Vulnerability." The vulnerability in the DNS servers can cause massive scale DDoS attacks if exploited by hackers. To lessen the impact of the attack, Microsoft recently issued a security advisory about the vulnerability. 
It is not all; the DNS vulnerability issue is just one thing. According to cyber experts, there is another DNS threat out in the wild, and the pressing issue is that very few people know about it.

Concerns regarding DNS 

In present times, the most pressing problem, according to cybersecurity experts, is the exploitation of unattended domains. In other words, domains that are no longer in use but still exist on the internet. It happens under the circumstances of dissolved firms, mergers, and partnerships, as the companies leave out their old domains because of the rebranding. If a domain is left out to expire, the following things can happen:

  • If the hackers re-register the expired domains and make a new e-mail server, they can have access to confidential organizational information.
  • Left out domains of stores can be re-built, and the hackers can use it to receive orders and steal the money.

All Windows Versions Hit By A Vulnerability; Attackers Take Full Control Over Computer




A vulnerability that existed in every single current Window versions allowing an attacker to misuse the Windows Group Policy feature to assume full control over a computer was recently dealt with by Microsoft. The administrators of the multinational technology can remotely deal with the entirety of the Windows devices on a system through the Group Policy feature.

This element permits the administrators to make a centralized global configuration policy for their organization that is pushed out to the entirety of the Windows devices on their network. The vulnerability was quite a serious one as it was capable enough to influence all Windows variants since Windows Server 2008.

These Group Policies allow an administrator to control how a computer can be utilized, like 'disabling settings in apps, prohibiting apps from running, enabling and disabling Windows features, and even deploying the same wallpaper on every Windows computer.'


To appropriately apply these new policies, the gpsvc service or 'Group Policy Client' service, is configured to run with 'system' privileges, which gives the same rights and permissions from the Administrator account.

However, Microsoft has already fixed the 'CVE-2020-1317 | Group Policy Elevation Privilege Vulnerability' discovered by cybersecurity firm CyberArk, who found a symlink attack against a file utilized for Group Policy updates to have access to elevated privileges.

"This vulnerability permits an unprivileged user in a domain environment to perform a file system attack which in turn would allow malicious users to evade anti-malware solutions, bypass security hardening, and could lead to severe damage in an organization network. This vulnerability could impact any Windows machine (2008 or higher), to escalate its privileges in a domain environment," CyberArk state in their report.

When playing out a group policy update that applies to the entirety of the devices in an organization, Windows will compose the new policies to a computer in a subfolder of the %LocalAppData% folder that any user, including a standard user, has permission.

Having full access to a file that is known to be utilized by a procedure with SYSTEM privileges, CyberArk found that they could come up with a symbolic link between the file to an RPC command that executes a DLL.

As the Group Policy Client service runs with SYSTEM privileges, when they endeavor to apply the policies in that file, it will rather execute any DLL the attackers need with SYSTEM privileges.

To trigger this vulnerability, a local attacker could execute the gpupdate.exe program, which plays out a manual group policy synchronization, and this command would then trigger the policy update and run an attacker's malevolent DLL.

As indicated by CyberArk, the full steps to ‘exploit’ this vulnerability would be as per the following:

  1. List the group policy GUIDs you have in C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Group Policy\History\ 
  2. If you have multiple GUIDs check which directory was updated recently 
  3. Go inside this directory and into the sub-directory, which is the user SID. 
  4. Look at the latest modified directory; this will vary in your environment. In some cases, it can be the Printers directory. 
  5. Delete the file, Printers.xml, inside the Printers directory. 
  6. Create an NTFS mount point to \RPC Control + an Object Manager symlink with Printers.xml that points on C:\Windows\System32\whatever.dll 
  7. Open your favorite terminal and run gpupdate. 

"There you have it; an arbitrary create on arbitrary locations, you can also delete and modify system protected files by using this exploit. There is a small change in behavior that goes on based on your GPO objects (printers, devices, drives). Alas, all of them end up in EoP," CyberArk explains.

As this vulnerability affects millions, if not conceivably a billion devices, it's a very serious security flaw that ought to be addressed to by all Windows administrators as soon as possible.


Apple Plans to Expand Cloud-Based Services, Enters Cloud Computing Space


Apple is planning to invest more in streamlines and increasing its cloud-based and software services like iCloud, Newsplus, and Apple Music. The expansion will go along with devices like iPads, MacBooks, and iPhones. To be entirely sure about the reliability of the cloud-based service on all the Apple devices, the company has decided to rely on AWS (Amazon Web Services) and the cloud division. AWS, as you might know, is a subunit of Amazon that offers cloud-space solutions. According to CNBC's findings, Apple is said to pay Amazon $30 Million monthly for its cloud-based services. It also means that Apple is one of the biggest customers of AWS.


Nevertheless, Apple hasn't confirmed whether it uses Amazon's cloud services besides its iCloud. According to experts, Apple also has some of its cloud services on Google. Amazon transformed the management of the data center and hosting of the applications when it brought the AWS. Being the first one to offer services like these, AWS is currently ranked top in the world of cloud hosting. Since recent times, Google Cloud and MS Azure are also trying to increase their presence in cloud-space services.

"As a matter of fact, AWS crossed the $10 billion quarterly revenue mark in Q1 2020, bringing in revenue of $10.2 billion with a growth rate of 33%. AWS accounted for about 13.5% of Amazon's total revenue for the quarter, which is on the higher end. Google Cloud, which includes Google Cloud Project (GCP) and G-Suite, generated $2.78 billion in revenue in the first quarter this year, which marked as a 52% increase over the same quarter a year ago. Microsoft does not reveal Azure revenue, but it announced that its Azure revenue grew by 59% in Q1 2020 over the same quarter a year ago," says Taarini Kaur Dang from Forbes.

As it seems, Apple knows the importance of the high-end cloud support needed for offering the best services to its customers. Similar to other tech biggies, Apple has its cloud space team called ACI (Apple Cloud Infrastructure). Noticing Apple's recent advancements, it is fair to believe that Apple might revolutionize the cloud-space world.

Microsoft rolls out a new threat intelligence against COVID-19 attacks


COVID-19 has become a hotspot of cyber attacks and spams as the majority of employees are working from home. These growing numbers of attacks have made security firms and tech industries quite concerned. But Microsoft has come to the rescue, rolling out a new COVID-19 threat intelligence.


Microsoft announced on its blog a new move that will improve security and can be availed easily. The company has introduced a COVID-19 threat intelligence made available from May 14, sharing feeds for Azure Sentinel customers and publicly available for everyone on GitHub. So, even if you are not a Microsoft customer worry not, you can still protect yourself from these COVID-19 based attacks. This data is only available for a limited period only until the pandemic threat looms over our heads.

“Microsoft processes trillions of signals each day across identities, endpoints, cloud, applications, and email, which provides visibility into a broad range of COVID-19-themed attacks, allowing us to detect, protect, and respond to them across our entire security stack,” Microsoft stated in their blog. “Today, we take our COVID-19 threat intelligence sharing a step further by making some of our own indicators available publicly for those that are not already protected by our solutions.”

Users with Microsoft Threat Protection need not go through this, they are already protected with Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and email with Office 365 ATP.

These COVID-19 threat intelligence indicators are available on the Azure Sentinel GitHub via Microsoft Graph Security API.

Best Protection from COVID-19 Threats 

Hackers and Cybercriminals have been using an array of malicious ways from malware to phishing emails for their own gain. This move by Microsoft will shift the balance and go a long way to protect and defend from such threats.

Security researcher Sean Wright says, "Microsoft certainly deserves credit for this. It will be especially useful for those who are struggling at the moment and don’t necessarily have the funds to afford services that organizations would normally have to pay for.”

“This information is going to be very useful to enable many volunteers in the community to help organizations and others. It is the correlation of data—especially threat intelligence—that will go a long way to help stop the threat actors out there who are actively targeting organizations and individuals.”

Some are critical of this announcement by the tech giant pointing out that it is "too little, too late".

 “I’m not saying it’s not welcome but where was this support nine weeks ago?” says Ian Thornton-Trump. 

Ian Thornton-Trump, CISO at Cyjax points out “It’s clever marketing and has some value—although most, if not all, those indicators of compromise (IOCs) will be available from a multitude of cyber threat intelligence sources, feeds and vendors already.”

Windows 10 New Feature Hunts and Thwarts PUAs/PUPs


Per reports, Microsoft has hinted that the next main version of Windows 10 will come stacked with a fresh security feature that would allow the users to facilitate the Windows Defender’s secret feature that helps hunt and bar the installation of known PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications).

PUA’s are also widely known as PUPs that stands for Potentially Unwanted Programs. These aren’t as well known by the users in the cyber-crime world as all the other major threats but are a valid threat nevertheless.

Per sources, these are software that is installed on devices via fooling the targets. The term for which the PUP/PUA stands is self-explanatory with regards to applications or programs that your device may not really need.

PUPs/PUAs go around with tactics like either by employing “silent installs” to dodge user permissions or by “bundling” an unrequired application with the installer of an authentic program.

Sources mention that PUAs most commonly contain applications that alter browser history, hinder security controls, install root certificates, track users and sell their data, and display invasive ads.

As per reports, the May 2020 update is to be rolled out to the users in the last week of this month. Microsoft mentioned that it has added a fresh new feature in its setting panel that would allow users to bar the installation of any unwanted applications or programs in the form of known PUAs/PUPs.

As it turns out, researchers mention that the feature has been available in the Windows Defender for quite a lot of time, but for it to kick start it would need group policies and not the usual Windows user interface.

As per sources, to enable the feature a user must go to ‘Start’, ‘Settings’, ‘Update & Security’, ‘Windows Security’, ‘App & Browser Control’, and finally 'Reputation-based Protection Settings’. Once updated, the feature would show two settings, the above-mentioned feature is disabled by default and would need to be enabled manually. However, Microsoft suggests, enabling both the settings.

Reports mention, that the “Block Apps” feature will scan for PUAs that have already been downloaded or installed, so if the user’s using a different browser Windows Security would intercept it after it’s downloaded. However, the “Block Downloads” feature hunts the PUAs while they are being downloaded.

24 Million Adware Attacks found on Windows


Avast, a security firm, discovered in their research the growing scale of adware. According to the report, around 72% of malware on android was adware. Another report by Malwarebytes reveals some shocking numbers with 24 million windows adware detections and 30 million on Macs. Nowadays, with good search engines and added internet security, we hardly consider adware as a severe threat. There was a time, around 2002 when adware attacks were at an all-time high. It was quite common to be faced with pop-ups and adds opening another window showing adverts. Only a few software provided essential protection against these pop-ups.


But in this digital-savvy decade, we hardly consider pop-ups as a security threat, but this report by Avast tells a different story. The numbers show that adware is still very much present and thriving. "Adware is unwanted software designed to throw advertisements up on your screen, most often within a web browser." This adware campaign can have malicious intents, especially using COVID-19, to fulfill their purposes.

Kaspersky released a report in which more than 120,000 malware and adware were impersonating meeting software like Zoom. Most evident were: DealPly and DownloadSponsor. This adware has evolved from their previous counterparts to a high capacity. Now they display that install and download other adware software. In some cases, the adware DealPly and ManageX can be installed automatically with the legitimate installer and other potentially unwanted applications (PUAs). Battling with adware is a hard war because of their large numbers. There are hundreds of apps developed every day and registered; many come laden with adware. To check every single one of them is more robust than finding a needle in a haystack.

In March, Google banned 56 malicious applications, but by then, they already had around a million downloads. It is effortless for these apps to pose as legitimate and carry adware along with them. Adware is often ignored in the shadows of more severe security threats, and even though it is less harmful, it nonetheless is far more ubiquitous. Hence, security teams must be cautious of adware and take preventive steps.

Google Is All Set To Fight The Coronavirus Themed Phishing Attacks and Scams


These days of lock-down have left cyber-criminals feeling pretty antsy about “working from home”. Not that it has mattered because apparently, that is why the number of cyber-crime cases has only hiked especially the Phishing attacks.

This has gotten Google working on its machine-learning models to bolster the security of Gmail to create a stronger security front against cyber-criminals.

Given the current conditions, the attackers seem to have a morbid sense when it comes to the themes of the Phishing attacks, i.e. COVID-19. Reportedly, 18 Million such attacks were blocked in a single week. Which amount up to 2.5% of the 100 Million phishing attacks it allegedly dodges every day.

Google, per sources, is also occupied with jamming around 240 Million spam messages on a daily basis. These phishing attacks and spams at such a worrisome time have impelled Google and Microsoft to modify their products’ mechanisms for creating a better security structure.

Reportedly, the number of phishing attacks, in general, hasn’t risen but in the already existing number of attacks, the use of COVID-19 or Coronavirus seems to have been used a lot.

Malware and phishing attacks, especially the ones related to COVID-19 are being pre-emptively monitored. Because being resourceful as the cyber-criminals are the existing campaigns are now being employed with little upgradations to fit the current situation.


A few of the annoying phishing emails include, ones pretending to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) to fool victims into making donations for VICTIMS to a falsified account.

Per the intelligence teams of Microsoft, the Coronavirus themed phishing attacks and scams are just the remodeled versions of the previous attacks.

The attackers are extremely adaptive to the things and issues that their victims might easily get attracted to. Hence a wide variety of baits could be noticed from time to time.

During the lock-down period of the pandemic, health-related and humanitarian organizations have been extensively mentioned in the scams and phishing emails.

Per sources, the Advanced Protection Program (APP) lately acquired new malware protections by enabling Google Play Protect On Android devices to some specifically enrolled accounts.

Allegedly, users trying to join the program with default security keys were suspended, while the ones with physical security keys were still allowed to be enrolled.

All the bettered security provisions of Google shall be turned on by default so that the users can continue to live a safe and secure life amidst the pandemic.

Winja (VirusTotal Uploader)- The Malware Detector!


Cyber-security is an important concern for everyone working from these days, amid the lock-down due to the current Coronavirus pandemic. There are several security measures one can employ to stay on top of all the cyber-hazards that hackers could be brewing.

Winja is one such free application and passive analysis tool that is designed for Microsoft Windows that helps the user find any potential malware on their system. By way of using the scanning engine of the anti-virus products, the application gives forth very specific details as to which file is hazardous in which way.

Whenever we download something from the internet our first step is to ensure that it’s safe for our device. With Winja, all you have to do is to drag the file in question on the mal window and Voila! The results apparently will show on the desktop.

In case you have a sneaking suspicion about your device being infected, you could scan all services and processes for malware and the application will help you.

Reportedly, Winja initially uses the “VirusTotal” public API to insert the fingerprint of a file. If the fingerprint is present, Winja sends the current analysis report and if it is not then Winja sends the “unknown file” to the VirusTotal servers for scanning. You can also analyze files any time you want to enhance the chances of detection.

As has been recognized by researchers over these years, hackers tend to have their places of choice in their victim’s devices to first sneak in and then hide the malware. With Winja it becomes extremely easy to locate any suspicious files in those places. Per sources, Services, Task Scheduler, Active Processes, Applications beginning with Windows and Actions that require network resources and internet are few to be mentioned.

All you need to do to scan any file that you have a suspicion on is to drag it and drop in onto the main window of the Winja application.

Plus, you can make use of an extension for the Windows Explorer that would aid you to request a scan by means of a right-click on any file of your choice from the file browser.

Per sources, all the subsequent versions after the sixth one are available in French making it a huge hit in the French-versed population. VirusTotal, which is an arm of Google, strongly suggests Winja as a substitute for their Windows desktop application.

This application goes hand in hand with the anti-virus software that you love to use for your devices. It is not a substitute for anti-virus software but it fits with them like a puzzle piece and does not intend to endanger their publicity in any way.

Hackers use Bill Gates themed video to sell off Ponzi Crypto Scheme


Recently, tens of YouTube accounts were hacked to broadcast a Ponzi cryptocurrency scheme by renaming the hacked YouTube accounts as Microsoft accounts bearing the message from the company's former CEO Bill Gates to invest in crypto.


This is not the only attack of it's kind, various other attacks like this have become frequent on YouTube where the hacker hijacks a popular account and broadcast a message from the account- a "crypto giveaway", where the user is offered that if they give some cryptocurrency they'll get it back doubled. And of course, this is a scam and the victim does not get any returns.

These frauds first made their appearance on Twitter but moved on to YouTube as Twitter started weeding these posers out.

These hackers very efficiently gave their scheme an air of legitimacy by live streaming (on 30+ accounts) one of Bill Gates talk given to an audience at Village Global in June 2019 and adding a pop of messages of the Ponzi Scheme. This Ponzi scheme was live streaming on these accounts on YouTube- Microsoft US, Microsoft Europe, Microsoft News, and others.

Though both YouTube and Microsoft denied that any official accounts were hacked some users did report that they found the stream on Microsoft's nonverified accounts.

Most of the scam videos were streaming from hacked accounts with high subscriber numbers, that were renamed as Microsoft US, Microsoft Europe and such to seem more official. The viewed number of the videos was in tens and thousands, also the Bitcoin address in the scheme received thousands of US dollars thus successfully scamming some users.

 Various other organizations have been used by such hackers like Chaos Computer Club, a famous Germany-based hacking community, had their accounts hacked and broadcasted with a similar cryptocurrency scheme.
The most recent and popular case was when the YouTube account of YouTube's founder was hacked back in January. So, these sorts of fraudulent schemes have now become a common affair and it's at the hands of the users not to pay heed to these. Always check the legitimacy of these accounts and it's good to remember to think twice before giving in to an offer that's too good to be real.

Windows 10 Users Beware! Astaroth Malware Campaign is Back and More Malicious!


A malware group that goes by the name of ‘Astaroth’ has re-emerged stronger and stealthier than before. This group has been known for exploiting Microsoft Windows tools to further the attack.

Microsoft had gotten aware of these methods and exposed the malware group and its “living-off-the-land” tactics. But the malware resurfaced with a hike in activity and better techniques.

Reportedly, the Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC) is the built-in tool that got used the last time as was spotted by the Windows Defender ATP.

Per sources, the analysis done by Microsoft led to the discovery of a spam operation that spread emails with links to websites hosting a “.LNK” shortcut file which would instruct the WMIC and other Windows tools to run “fileless” malware in the memory well out of the reach of the anti-malware.

Sources indicate that having learnt from mistakes, Astaroth now entirely dodges the use of the WMIC. January and February showed a rise in activity.

According to sources, the new styled campaign still commences with a spam email comprising of a malicious website hosting link, LNK file but it the new version it employs a file attribute, “Alternate Data Streams” (ADS), that lets the attacker clip data to a file that already exists so that hiding malicious payloads gets easier.

Per source reports, the first step of the campaign which is a spam email reads, “Please find in the link below the STATEMENT #56704/2019 AND LEGAL DECISION, for due purposes”. The link is an archive file marked as, “Arquivo_PDF_.zip”.

It manipulates the ExtExport.exe to load the payload which per researchers is a valid process and an extremely unusual attack mechanism.

Once the victim clicks on the LNK file with the .zip file in it, the malware runs an obfuscated BAT command line, which releases a JavaScript file into the ‘Pictures’ folder and commands the explorer.exe that helps run the file.

Researchers mention and sources confirm that using the ADS permits the stream data to stay unidentifiable in the File Explorer, in this version Astaroth reads and decrypts plugins from ADS streams in desktop.ini that let Astaroth to rob email and browser passwords. It also unarms security software.

Per sources, the plugins are the “NirSoft WebBrowserPassView” tool is for regaining passwords and browsers and the “NirSoft MailPassView” tool is for getting back the email client passwords.

This is not the only legitimate tool Astaroth exploits. A command-line tool that goes by the name of “BITSAdmin” which aids admins to create download and upload jobs with tracking their progress is exploited to download encrypted payloads.

Reportedly, Astaroth has previously wreaked havoc on continents like Asia, North America, and Europe.

HACKED- Windows 10, macOS, Adobe, VMware, Apple and Oracle at The Pwn2Own 2020!


Pwn2Own is a well-known computer hacking contest which is held once every year at the CanSecWest security conference. In this contest, the contestants are tested on how well they could exploit commonly used software and mobile devices with formerly unheard of vulnerabilities.

An issue as grave as the Coronavirus pandemic has clearly not affected the spirits of the Pwn2Own 2020 hacking competition which got done with its first two days.

On Day 1, security researchers and participants bagged a handsome amount of over $180,000 for exploiting the Windows 10, Ubuntu Desktop and macOS, mention sources.

Reportedly, a “team from the Georgia Tech Systems Software and Security Lab succeeded in exploiting a kernel privilege escalation to execute code on macOS” by way of Safari. The attack mechanism that ended up winning for the team $70,000 was comprised of 6 vulnerabilities.

Per the event page (thezdi.com), Georgia Tech employed a “6 bug chain to pop calc and escalate to root”.

The team that has won several preceding editions of the hacking contest, Team Fluoroacetate, won themselves a victorious $40,000 after they employed a “local privilege escalation exploit” meant for the Windows 10.

Reports mention that one of the two members of the aforementioned team also won himself a smashing amount of $40,000 for yet another privilege escalation exploit pursuing Windows 10.

As per sources, the RedRocket CTF team got themselves a win, owing to it to one of their members, Mafred Paul, who bagged an attractive amount of $30,000 for a local privilege escalation exploit focused on Ubuntu Desktop. The hack was about the manipulation of the ‘Input validation bug’.

On Day 2, The Fluoroacetate successfully targeted the Adobe Reader with a local privilege escalation by employing a pair of UAFs, mentioned sources and grabbed an amount of $50,000.

Per reports, the Synacktiv team targeted the VMware Workstation but unfortunately to no avail in the given duration of time. There also were special demonstrations of the Zero Day Initiative against the Oracle VirtualBox.

This was the very first time the organizers allowed “conditional remote participation” in the Pwn2Own hacking contest, understandably because of the increased concerns of people about traveling due to the Coronavirus outbreak.