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Ransomware infections follow precursor malware – Lumu • The Register

Ransomware is among the most feared of the myriad cyberthreats circulating today, putting critical data at risk and costing some enterprises tens of millions of dollars in damage and ransoms paid. However, ransomware doesn’t occur in a vacuum, according to security startup Lumu Technologies.

A ransomware infection is usually preceded by what Lumu founder and CEO Ricardo Villadiego calls “precursor malware,” essentially reconnaissance malicious code that has been around for a while and which lays the groundwork for the full ransomware campaign to come. Find and remediate that precursor malware and a company can ward off the ransomware attack is the theory.

“The moment you see your network – and by network, I mean the network defined the modern times, whatever you have on premises, whatever is out in the clouds, whatever you have with your remote users – when you see any assets from your network contacting an adversarial infrastructure, eliminate that contact because that puts you in your zone of maximum resistance to attacks,” Villadiego told The Register.

If a company detects their network is contacting what looks like the command-and-control servers of malware, such as Emotet, Phorpiex, SmokeLoader, Dridex and TrickBot, shutting down those contacts right away “is going to eliminate the catastrophic effect, which is the ransomware attack,” he said.

Lumu outlined the idea of the warning signs of an impending ransomware attack in a quick report – what the company calls a “flashcard” – this month. In it the startup outlines what it says is a vicious cycle of ransomware.

Citing statistics from cybersecurity consultancy CyberEdge, Lumu said that victims that pay the ransom are increasingly recovering their data, from 19.4 percent in 2018 to 71.6 percent last year. This has made companies more willing to pay the ransom – 38.7 percent in 2018, 57 percent now – despite recommendations and pleas from the government and cybersecurity experts not to pay.

With more companies paying, threat groups are incentivized to run ransomware attacks and invest more money into their efforts, the Lumu researchers wrote, adding that result is more infections. Several US agencies – the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), FBI, and NSA – joined counterparts in the UK and Australia in February in issuing a joint advisory that indicated the threat of ransomware around the world will increase this year.

Addressing the precursor malware when it arises can reduce the incidence of ransomware, it’s claimed. Of the more than 2,000 companies Lumu monitors, every ransomware attack came with other malware preceding it and paving the way.

“When we see the companies that were affected, there were a lot of signs that were happening months – and in some cases, more than three months – before they were affected by the ransomware attack,” Villadiego said. “When you see a network that is contacting these precursors of ransomware, there are other pieces of malware that cause less harm.”

The precursor malware will spread laterally through a company’s network and devices, escalating access before a ransomware package is deployed, he said. Security pros within the company may see some kind of activity, and assume their firewalls or endpoint detection and response (EDR) software has caught it and protected them, whereas it’s just the precursor that was picked up. At the same time, a company’s security operations may be flooded with unrelated alerts that they are paying more attention to than that of the precursor malware, he said.

Meanwhile, the bad actors are being given months to set up a ransomware outbreak, the CEO said.

“What we make clear to the companies that we’re protecting is, your point of maximum resistance to attacks is your point of lesser contact,” he said. “Whatever that infrastructure is, that is going to be one of maximum resistance to attack … My advice to security operators is to deal with small problems so you don’t have to deal with a catastrophic event of a ransomware attack. And what is a small problem? A small problem in security is when your network is starting to contact these adversarial infrastructures, which typically goes unnoticed and typically doesn’t create an event that compels the operators to act.”

The company identified the malware backend that was most often detected being contacted. At the top of the list is Emotet, a banking trojan first discovered in 2014 that later evolved to include spamming and malware delivery services. Among the other malware were Phorpiex (a botnet first seen in 2016 that later included crypto-jacking and spreading ransomware), SmokeLoader (a backdoor for malware delivery), Dridex (known for stealing bank credentials) and TrickBot (a banking trojan).

Villadiego in 2018 founded Lumu, based in Doral, Florida. The company, which raised $7.5m in Series A funding a year ago and has about 80 employees, offers the Continuous Compromise Assessment model, which enables organizations to measure compromises within their systems in real time and automate the mitigation responses. The technology integrates with security tools enterprises are already using, delivers intelligence about compromises and lets organizations intentionally hunt for compromises.

Lumu assesses and collects information from such aspects as DNS queries, network flows, access logs, firewalls and proxies and correlates the data to identify whether any asset is trying to contact an adversarial infrastructure. Having that information enables organizations to end such contacts.

Enterprises are spending millions of dollars on security products and managed security services providers (MSSPs), but often their security teams are not looking for compromises.

“It’s hard to find something that we’re not looking for,” he said, adding that many assume that their organization is secure. “That is the wrong mindset and the breaches that have happened demonstrate that. A better way to operate is by assuming you’re compromised and let your network prove otherwise. Let the network prove you’re not.” ®

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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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