Rise in Remote Work Targeted Attacks
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April 13, 2020

Google released a stat this week that 39% of its workforce is away from its various offices in the U.S. In Canada, its 44%. Also, this week, research firm Gartner Inc. reported that 88% of organizations have set up some work from home program.

Many organizations had little or no plans for securing these workers at home previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created an opportunity for threat actors to target these people. Most of these individuals are focused on trying to be productive, while self-isolating to remain safe and healthy. For many, this new work-at-home reality has been challenging. The hacker community is taking advantage of this crisis to target vulnerable people who have their minds distracted by things at home.

Hackers are finding success using hidden mobile apps and unique distribution methods, according to the latest McAfee Mobile Threat Report 2020. The report found that mobile apps, third-party login and counterfeit gaming videos are the tools hackers are using to lure remote workers. Approximately 50% of all malicious threats were as a result of hidden mobile apps.

Terry Hicks, the executive vice president of McAfee’s Consumer Business Group, said mobile threats are playing a game of ‘hide and seek.’ McAfee has uncovered that hackers have expanded the ways of hiding their attacks, making them increasingly difficult to identify and remove, which makes it seem like 2020 will be the year of attacks from places organizations least expect them.

McAfee’s research found that hidden apps are the most active mobile threat, generating nearly 50% of all malicious activities. Hackers continue to target people through channels that they spend the most time on— their devices, as the average person globally is expected to own 15 connected devices by 2030. Hidden apps take advantage of unsuspecting individuals in multiple ways, including taking advantage of third-party login services or serving unwanted ads. Here are a few examples.

Malicious Apps

Remote workers who are learning how to work from home are dealing with gaps in there day that they occupy by playing games and seeking other multimedia experiences. Hackers are taking advantage of this by distributing malicious apps through links in gamer chat apps and cheat videos by creating their content containing links to fake apps. These apps disguise themselves as real with icons that closely simulate the actual apps but serve unwanted ads and collect user data. McAfee researchers uncovered apps such as FaceApp, Spotify, and Call of Duty all have fake versions trying to prey on unsuspecting users.

New Mobile Malware

McAfee researchers have also discovered new mobile malware called LeifAccess, also known as Shopper. This malware takes advantage of the accessibility features in Android to create accounts, download apps, and post reviews using names and emails configured on the victim’s device. McAfee researchers observed apps based on LeifAccess being distributed through social media, gaming platforms, malvertising, and gamer chat apps. Fake warnings are used to get the user to activate accessibility services, enabling the full range of the malware’s capabilities.

Legitimate Apps Used by Hackers

There are also legitimate apps aimed at stealing data used by Hackers. McAfee researchers found that a series of South Korean transit apps were compromised with a fake library and plugin that could exfiltrate confidential files called MalBus. The attack was hidden in a legitimate South Korean transit app by hacking the original developer’s Google Play account. The series provides a range of information for each region of South Korea, such as bus stop locations, route maps, and schedule times for more than five years. MalBus represents a different attack method as hackers went after the account of a legitimate developer of a popular app with a solid reputation.

What’s clear is that with so many more remote workers in play, hackers will have a bigger pool of people to target, which is why a comprehensive suite of security, backup, and management solutions for those who use Office 365 is an excellent route to protecting these users.

During this time of COVID-19, people need to protect their email with powerful tools that can scan the email tenant for phishing and malware. Not only do they need tools to look for the usual suspects but also advanced AI systems and tools such as a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system. These tools find suspicious or malicious events and have an extra layer of security by having real human beings that can take action and remediate potential security threats.Services such as Secure IT – Mail are able to fulfil the needs of keeping users secure while working remote.

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