News & Events

EMAIL INVOICE FRAUD

While this scam is not new, many businesses are still falling for it.
Read how you can prevent being a victim.

Because of its interest in cybersecurity, the HTG Cybersecurity Team receives a lot of news (some actual and some anecdotal) about cybersecurity threats throughout the world. There are so many of them that if we were to send you an alert every time we hear of one, you will truly be overwhelmed.

However, we are keen to send you warnings of threats that are either new and highly risky, or ones that we believe are worth your knowing or being reminded of. This is especially of attacks that have snared local businesses.

This warning is about email invoice fraud.

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WhiteLines® – A Little $3 Swedish Notetaking Gem

For this article, I want to share with you a Swedish productivity gem that I came across by accident when I went with one of my girls to shop for school stationery at Warehouse Stationery.

On one of its shelves was an ordinary looking $3 exercise book called WhiteLines® but which comes with a label that says, “Write, scan & save your notes with Whitelines® Link”

I knew I struck something profound when upon reaching home, I was able to immediately write some notes on the pages of the book with an ordinary ballpoint pen, download the free app, and convert the notes into electronic form within seconds.

I have always been on the lookout for ways in which technology and non-technical people can work together. All too often, workers have to adapt their ways of working to suit the computer. Once in a long while, I discover a nugget where computing has been adapted to work the way that workers work. This article is about Whitelines, one such jewel.

Once in a long while, I discover a nugget where computing has been adapted to work the way that workers work. This article is about Whitelines, one such jewel.

At its simplest, Whitelines consists of a notebook made of ordinary paper but with special markings on the pages, and a freely downloadable mobile app for converting the pages into electronic form. All this is done almost without any technical knowledge and within seconds. The cost is almost negligible.

This is how it works.

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SPAM FILTERING – The necessary evil?

Junkmail-paperwaste-MAINA technology market research firm called The Radicati Group recently estimated the number of email users worldwide at 3.7 billion and that 269 billion emails are sent per day. This translates to around 2.4 million emails per second.

Of this, 49.7% is digital junk mail or spam and 2.3% have malware attached to them.

This means that spam-filtering systems have to sift around 269 and remove 135 billion emails a day. That is a lot of work.

If you want to know how important spam filters are to your online experience, try turning them off for just a few minutes. Your network will probably end up looking like this office below.

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New Dangerous Variant of CryptoLocker Reaches Waikato. Do not click on unknown resumes!

In my nearly 30 years of advising clients on IT security I have never come across a more aggressive and successful piece of malware as CryptoLocker. ‘Successful’ from the angle of the perpetrator, not from the perspective of the network owner, regrettably. Since the beginning of this year, HTG has been aware of wave after wave of CryptoLocker attempts on Waikato businesses. Unfortunately, sufficient of these attacks were effective to cause a lot of disruption and consequential monetary loss to the victims.

To some degree networks can be protected against CryptoLocker through technology. Clients who are subscribers to HTG Fortress, for instance, benefit from a higher level of protection than is obtainable from normal defences. However, there is nothing that can prevent successful infection through users momentarily or unknowingly letting their guard down and opening unsolicited email attachments or clicking on links to infected websites.

I believe that there wouldn’t be many users out there who are not aware that clicking on unsolicited email attachments or suspicious links is risky. However, the perpetrators are getting smarter and smarter and each new generation of Ransomware is dressing up to look more and more like legitimate correspondence.

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Is your business still running the type of home grade firewalls that ISPs give out for free?

What prompted me to write this article is a recent story published by the BBC of how the Bangladesh Central Bank lost over $100 million to hackers. It turned out that the bank’s system was protected only by a cheap internet router with no proper firewalling services built in – the type that many businesses still run in NZ.

I have long and consistently urged my clients to be careful about cyber security. This is because where I sit I come to hear of a lot of risk-taking and actual losses incurred by businesses through cybercrimes. Consider the following statistics:

  • Over 856,000 New Zealanders were affected by cybercrime each year, costing at least $257m in 2015
  • An average of 25 attacks per day happened last year, causing $13m in damage – up 68 per cent
  • For one email platform, nearly 70 per cent of all email was identified as spam or malware. And this is not uncommon. Most businesses don’t realise this because their email host filters out 99.99% of this offal.
  • A US study has found 60 per cent of small businesses went out of business within six months of a data breach.

The majority of the issues arise from momentary lapses of attention. It can be very hard to beat the cybercrime perpetrators because they are often very brilliant at what they come out with. For example, ransomware writers are sending out more and more innocent looking messages that even the most seasoned cyber-detectives are having difficulty differentiating from legitimate emails.

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