Authentic8 Blog Category: Security

How Watering Hole Attacks Target the Financial Sector and Government Agencies

Websites of governments, regulatory bodies and financial authorities are preferred targets for "watering hole" attacks on finance, investment and compliance professionals. These online resources make it easy for attackers to target their victims. How do such attacks work?

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Watering hole attack infographic

Source: GoldPhish

So-called watering hole (a.k.a. "water holing") attacks are probably the most economical of online exploits. Instead of identifying and tracking down individual targets one-by-one, the threat actors first research and identify a vulnerable website frequently sought out by key professionals in the targeted industry or organization.

In the second step, they install an exploit kit that may allow the attackers to target that site’s users even more selectively, for instance based on their IP number. Like lions hidden in the savannah grass, they then lay and lurk.

Once their prey shows up at the "water hole", the victim’s locally installed browser takes care of the rest. Because the browser is designed to indiscriminately fetch and execute code from

VPN for Secure and Private Web Access? Think Again.

Many believe a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will protect users against online privacy violations and web-borne exploits. But how far can you really trust VPN? A new report by Authentic8 provides answers that may surprise you.

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VPN creates an encrypted data “tunnel” between the user’s computer and a secure server - on the corporate network, for example - that can also serve as a springboard to the web. Still, this secure tunnel is not sufficient. Over the more than 20 years that VPN has been around, its limitations have become obvious.

Yes, VPN can make connecting with networks and resources across the web more secure. What is often overlooked: VPN still allows web code to pass through to the locally installed web browser.

This opens the door for malware and spyware infiltration as well as data exfiltration, localization and de-anonymization by third parties. In last week’s blog post, we focused on the “online privacy” promise of VPN. We showed how

VPN & Privacy: What Nobody Told You

Large-scale privacy violations on the web have become commonplace. Social media platforms and app or service providers have been shelling out, some intentionally, others unintentionally, user data to third parties hand over fist.

While such incidents may have a numbing effect on some users, others take them as a reminder to seek better protection against surveillance and tracking threats on the internet. After all, service providers selling our data to third parties is not a new development. This post provides more in-depth background on how ISPs use VPN to spy on you.

Third parties taking advantage of VPN’s many flaws for nefarious purposes is so real that earlier this month, two U.S. senators (Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio) raised alarm in a bipartisan letter [PDF] to the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Christopher Krebs.

In the light of all this, what doesn’t cease to amaze me is how many

Financial Services: Blindspot Browser

For regulated investment firms, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) has prioritized “cybersecurity with an emphasis on, among other things, governance and risk assessment, access rights and controls, data loss prevention [...] and incident response.”

While firms have significantly strengthened their compliance policies, their actual practices still reveal alarming gaps. Behind closed doors, compliance leaders in many firms I get to speak to admit that they lack the tools to sufficiently monitor, audit, and enforce employee web use policy.

Regulators expect firms to make a “reasonable” attempt to ensure oversight and remediate areas of weakness. So what’s getting in the way?

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

The Web - Asset or Liability? It Depends On the Browser.

Whether research analysts or investment managers use business apps or social media, they rely on the locally installed web browser as their primary tool. It is the very same tool that increasingly leaves firms exposed to risks of data breaches and compliance violations online.

In a

Quick Dissections: Collections 2 - 5

You’ve seen the headlines about a loot archive of stolen credentials called "Collection #1" that was leaked online in January. This collection contains 772,904,991 entries, one of the most significant credential leaks yet. The credentials are all stored within an email:cleartext_password format, making credential stuffing attacks relatively easy without having to worry about deciphering hashes.

As worrisome for potential targets as this can be, this post doesn’t deal with this particular pile of data (read Troy Hunt’s analysis of "Collection #1" leak here). Instead, I’ll take a closer look at why there’s a “#1” next to the collection name. While #1 is a massive heap of data, it’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are five collection archives in total, containing a total of 1TB worth of raw credential data waiting to be downloaded by attackers. So what’s in Collections 2 - 5?

What About Collections 2 - 5?