There is a serious vulnerability with Microsoft Office that can allow an attack on your computer.
Power point can be embedded into a website – a spreadsheet or sent as an email attachment – some of those beautiful picture things!
What you can do to protect yourself:
Until this has been addressed:
– Do not open powerpoint files (Attachments ending in .ppt)
– Make sure you watch for an install all microsoft updates
– Do not open attachments unless you really have to – and if that is the case you would be better off making sure you do not have administrator privileges on your machine.
With this type of an attack – if you have the ability to install software and you get infected the hack has your rights to make changes on your machine.
“Microsoft is aware of a vulnerability affecting all supported releases of Microsoft Windows, excluding Windows Server 2003. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Microsoft Office file that contains an OLE object. An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user. Customers whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than those who operate with administrative user rights. The attack requires user interaction to succeed on Windows clients with a default configuration, as User Account Control (UAC) is enabled and a consent prompt is displayed.”
“At this time, we are aware of limited, targeted attacks that attempt to exploit the vulnerability through Microsoft PowerPoint.”
In observed attacks, User Account Control (UAC) displays a consent prompt or an elevation prompt, depending on the privileges of the current user, before a file containing the exploit is executed. UAC is enabled by default on Windows Vista and newer releases of Microsoft Windows.
An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user. Customers whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than those who operate with administrative user rights.
In a web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a website that contains a webpage that contains a specially crafted Office file that is used to attempt to exploit this vulnerability. In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these websites. Instead, an attacker would have to convince users to visit the website, typically by getting them to click a link in an email message or Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker’s website.
Files from the Internet and from other potentially unsafe locations can contain viruses, worms, or other kinds of malware that can harm your computer. To help protect your computer, files from these potentially unsafe locations are opened in Protected View. By using Protected View, you can read a file and see its contents while reducing the risks. Protected View is enabled by default.
For more information:
From: “US-CERT” <US-CERT@ncas.us-cert.gov>
National Cyber Awareness System:
TA14-295A: Crypto Ransomware
10/22/2014 05:28 PM EDT
Original release date: October 22, 2014
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that infects a computer and restricts access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock it. This Alert is the result of Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC) analysis in coordination with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide further information about crypto ransomware, specifically to:
- Present its main characteristics, explain the prevalence of ransomware, and the proliferation of crypto ransomware variants; and
- Provide prevention and mitigation information.
WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?
Ransomware is a type of malware that infects a computer and restricts a user’s access to the infected computer. This type of malware, which has now been observed for several years, attempts to extort money from victims by displaying an on-screen alert. These alerts often state that their computer has been locked or that all of their files have been encrypted, and demand that a ransom is paid to restore access. This ransom is typically in the range of $100–$300 dollars, and is sometimes demanded in virtual currency, such as Bitcoin.
Ransomware is typically spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments and drive-by downloading. Drive-by downloading occurs when a user unknowingly visits an infected website and malware is downloaded and installed without their knowledge. Crypto ransomware, a variant that encrypts files, is typically spread through similar methods, and has been spread through Web-based instant messaging applications.
WHY IS IT SO EFFECTIVE?
The authors of ransomware instill fear and panic into their victims, causing them to click on a link or pay a ransom, and inevitably become infected with additional malware, including messages similar to those below:
- “Your computer has been infected with a virus. Click here to resolve the issue.”
- “Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content. To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine.”
- “All files on your computer have been encrypted. You must pay this ransom within 72 hours to regain access to your data.”
PROLIFERATION OF VARIANTS
In 2012, Symantec, using data from a command and control (C2) server of 5,700 computers compromised in one day, estimated that approximately 2.9 percent of those compromised users paid the ransom. With an average ransom of $200, this meant malicious actors profited $33,600 per day, or $394,400 per month, from a single C2 server. These rough estimates demonstrate how profitable ransomware can be for malicious actors.
This financial success has likely led to a proliferation of ransomware variants. In 2013, more destructive and lucrative ransomware variants were introduced including Xorist, CryptorBit, and CryptoLocker. Some variants encrypt not just the files on the infected device but also the contents of shared or networked drives. These variants are considered destructive because they encrypt user’s and organization’s files, and render them useless until criminals receive a ransom.
Additional variants observed in 2014 included CryptoDefense and Cryptowall, which are also considered destructive. Reports indicate that CryptoDefense and Cryptowall share the same code, and that only the name of malware itself is different. Similar to CryptoLocker, these variants also encrypt files on the local computer, shared network files, and removable media.
LINKS TO OTHER TYPES OF MALWARE
Systems infected with ransomware are also often infected with other malware. In the case of CryptoLocker, a user typically becomes infected by opening a malicious attachment from an email. This malicious attachment contains Upatre, a downloader, which infects the user with GameOver Zeus. GameOver Zeus is a variant of the Zeus Trojan that steals banking information and is also used to steal other types of data. Once a system is infected with GameOver Zeus, Upatre will also download CryptoLocker. Finally, CryptoLocker encrypts files on the infected system, and requests that a ransom be paid.
The close ties between ransomware and other types of malware were demonstrated through the recent botnet disruption operation against GameOver Zeus, which also proved effective against CryptoLocker. In June 2014, an international law enforcement operation successfully weakened the infrastructure of both GameOver Zeus and CryptoLocker.
Ransomware doesn’t only target home users; businesses can also become infected with ransomware, which can have negative consequences, including:
- Temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information;
- Disruption to regular operations;
- Financial losses incurred to restore systems and files; and
- Potential harm to an organization’s reputation.
Paying the ransom does not guarantee the encrypted files will be released; it only guarantees that the malicious actors receive the victim’s money, and in some cases, their banking information. In addition, decrypting files does not mean the malware infection itself has been removed.
Infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery can be a difficult process that may require the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.
US-CERT and CCIRC recommend users and administrators take the following preventive measures to protect their computer networks from ransomware infection:
- Perform regular backups of all critical information to limit the impact of data or system loss and to help expedite the recovery process. Ideally, this data should be kept on a separate device, and backups should be stored offline.
- Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software.
- Keep your operating system and software up-to-date with the latest patches.
- Do not follow unsolicited web links in email. Refer to the Security Tip Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information on social engineering attacks.
- Use caution when opening email attachments. For information on safely handling email attachments, see Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams.
- Follow safe practices when browsing the web. See Good Security Habits and Safeguarding Your Data for additional details.
Individuals or organizations are not encouraged to pay the ransom, as this does not guarantee files will be released. Report instances of fraud to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center or contact the CCIRC .
- Kaspersky Lab, Kaspersky Lab detects mobile Trojan Svpeng: Financial malware with ransomware capabilities now targeting U.S.
- United States National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, Cryptolocker Ransomware
- Sophos / Naked Security, What’s next for ransomware? CryptoWall picks up where CryptoLocker left off
- Symantec, CryptoDefence, the CryptoLocker Imitator, Makes Over $34,000 in One Month
- Symantec, Cryptolocker: A Thriving Menace
- Symantec, Cryptolocker Q&A: Menace of the Year
- Symantec, International Takedown Wounds Gameover Zeus Cybercrime Network
- Initial Publication, October 22, 2014