The festive season is here, and we are starting to get everything in position. From the xmas jumpers to required cover for our clients.
This year we have as normal contacted our Managed Service Clients and retrieved their opening hours. Using this information we have then scheduled engineer availability around this.
In the past this has worked well, but does not give us much time off for our loved ones, so we have a slight difference this year. We will not be manning the phones during our Christmas Cover days, instead we will be monitoring our voicemail service and getting back to service affecting issues asap.
The difference will not be big to our clients but massive to us! Doing this we are able to relax but have our phones and laptops with us ready for an alert instead of waiting by the phone begging for something to do!
To see our Christmas service times please use the following links below: – December January
On a daily basis we are looking at many email issues from spam, viruses, spoofing and more.
As part of this constant stream of work we are always looking at ways to improve how this is handled, and the security offered to clients.
Incoming Mail Improvements
We are adding new rules and training the platform all the time to detect spam and stop these messages getting into your inbox.
But we have recently made some big changes to the platform giving us better flexibility and customisation for your business. This is done in the form of profiles, and each customer now has their own profile meaning we can almost tweak everything to your needs.
An example of things that can be customised for your business via a profile are: –
Anti-spam actions [Delete, quarantine, tag, etc]
Dedicated Blacklist, not to be confused with RBLs which are also known as blacklists. This is one we control!
Dedicated whitelist. We do not like adding items to this as it means they are not scanned for any form of spam or virus.
Outgoing Mail Improvements
We have in the past added some outgoing protection, like anti-spam and anti-virus. But this has always been our weakest point, until now….
Our scanning systems now do not just scan email you send and make sure it is not spam or contains a virus, and deletes them but actually informs you of this in the way of a bounce message.
Our scanning systems also make sure your content typed in messages do not match our DLP (Data Loss Prevention) rules. If message does get flagged for this we are alerted so we can contact your business to discuss the issue and resolve.
We now no longer just authenticate your businesses server via your location, but we have now started authenticating with location and email address of sender. This means that only people from your business with a business email can use our system to send messages via our filtering system.
Policy Records and Reporting
We have for awhile now publish SPF (Sender Policy Framework) records, and digitally signed emails with DKIM. But we have found this is not enough to stop people spoofing emails as not everyone listed to these rules.
Earlier this year we started publishing DMARC rules to say apply the SPF and DKIM where you can, but without any reporting we could not see if this had improved the issue or not.
We now have a new DMARC Reporting platform which we have used at the start of this month to harden our published DMARC rules informing people to apply SPF and DKIM strictly and reject any messages which do not match.
This all sounds good, but what is best of all is we have added rules to DMARC for recipient servers to report back to us meaning we can monitor if your messages are delivered or not and if anyone is trying to spoof you and from where.
This has been so successful we have already seen improvements in mail flow and a reduction in spoofing. Unfortunately any business with no email protection on it will still be hit as they have nothing to apply these rules.
As you can see we are always aiming to improve our services, and this is a good taste of what has been done as of late.
If you are having email issues, why not look at taking up our spam filtering and protection service?
As part of an improved drive to protect your telephone system from abuse the latest update has stronger password policies with a built-in compliance checker.
To take advantage of this additional security position we will soo be informing the system to regenerate usernames and passwords for accounts that do not meet these requirements. Once your account has been regenerated we shall send you a new welcome email with these details.
SSL Security Updates
In the next month 3CX will be updating the security certificates on their servers, required for secure communication with 3CX. This means that we will need to go to update 6 as soon as possible. 3CX continue to add many security features under the hood to ensure safe operation of the PBX and secure communications.
Faster Smartphone Apps with Improved PUSH
The PUSH functionality for the iOS and Android smartphone apps has undergone major improvements. It is now much faster and more reliable.
Web Based Softphone
Now you can make phone calls right from your browser without even installing a softphone. The new update integrates a WebRTC softphone in the webclient. As this feature is still in beta, it needs to be enabled from the management console. If you would like this feature enabled please raise a support ticket requesting this. The web client will then have an additional phone option under the phone icon in the top right corner, as shown below.
There are many other smaller improvements like new compatible phones, QR Code support for setup etc; but nothing that should effect your use of the system.
Since about the 18th September 2018 BT have been having issues with emails being delayed for hours or not being sent at all!
We have now seen this first hand as customers are coming to us asking why this is happening.
Looking at the issue our mail servers are informing us that BT are failing SPF checks. These checks are sender policies checks, and the policies are created by BT and published to the internet for mail servers to use. Basically these policies state who is and who is not allowed to send using a BT address, and if someone not on this list tries they are a spammer.
This being honest seemed a little odd, a big company like this having all the tech guys they have getting something so simple wrong. So I manually checked against a couple of emails myself…
And BT have the wrong policies listed on line compared to what servers are trying to send emails as BT address like @btinternet.com
Having a quick search on the internet I found my good old Downdetector site which shows others stating the same too.
If your a BT customer and using their email platform, don’t expect people to receive your emails for a long time; and to our clients we are sorry but this is a BT issue that only they can solve as they write the policies our system(s)s stick to.
*** UPDATE ***
On 24/09/2018 we have looked at this issue again as we are still getting delayed messages or bouncing them due to SPF failures.
We have found that BT look like they now have correct record, this record calls multiple other records which do validate the recent sender servers but we are still rejecting them.
We have found that a DNS change or something from BT has not been accepted or read correctly but some DNS Services causing a time out looking up and reading all the SPF records.
This delay in reading all the records meant a match was not found and the fail command as specified by BT was actioned.
We have now corrected our services and hope this information helps others.
For email security professionals they will know about greylisting and how this is similar to a blacklist. But unlike a black or whitelist this is a temporary listing making the sender send the message again to prove they are real.
How does Greylisting work?
Greylisting is a extremely clear and basic way of stopping spam coming into your business. I say this is a simple protection method as it works on the sending address and the sending server address only.
If a sender sends you an email for the first time this message will be bounced back with a temporary email error message to the sending server only, that server will be informed to try again in X minutes. Once the same server tries to send the message again the system will see this attempt and give it the all clear and allow receipt of the message.
As mentioned above, this is not just the senders address, but also the senders server address that is looked at. So if a company has two different sending servers for email then the message has to come from the same server else it will be bounced again.
Once the Greylist has been accepted this is added to a temp database for a period meaning emails from that combination will no longer be greylisted until the period has expired.
The reason this works so well is spammers generally do not use servers to email, they use scripts and other methods. As these methods do not store information and do not have the ability to retry once greylisting happens the message never gets through.
What’s the problem?
The issue is actually down to progression of email systems and trying to make them accessible 24/7. Most companies and online services like Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s GSuite have multiple outgoing servers to get around blacklists, server outages etc.
Having these multiple outgoing servers resolves many issues, but with greylisting this could delay emails by days as it bounced from one sending server to the other.
Greylisting is a wonderful idea which stops a vast amount of spam with not much overhead to spam systems. The problem is, with new services and the need for email now; this technology is showing it’s age.
Personally I would like to see this technology rise like the phoenix and once again help fight spam, but for the moment this technology is not used by us.
Email spoofing used to be a thing of the past, but it is back!
The basic’s of email spoofing is to send an email from address A, but make it look like it was send from address B. This was stopped by a lot of technologies like SPF, DKIM and DMARC.
Unfortunately a newer version is hitting at present, and this is currently hard to stop.
What is the new version?
The idea is the same, but instead of pretending to be from a different address they are using just the name.
As an example, I might send an email from my account of email@example.com which normally has my name of “John Doe” attached.
What the spammers are doing is sending an email from firstname.lastname@example.org but providing the name of “John Doe”.
People see this email is from “me” and hopefully trust it and click on the link provided etc…
How can we spot this?
This is very easy to spot if we all take just 5 seconds to look at the email. Here is a sample email we actually received. (Actual real names/address removed, but spammer stuff remains)
Hopefully after my brief description above you have already spotted the main way of telling if an email is spoofed or not. If not, do not worry as below we shall go through this in full detail.
As with above, here is the same email with some coloured boxes over certain areas. These boxes explained below the picture show how we know this is a spoof.
Blue shows part of the from field on an email, this part is the name of the sender. In this case saying John Doe which is the spoofed information.
Orange shows us the section of the email before the @ symbol. In the from field of the email it states it is jifitzgerald where the signature states it is JDoe. The from field shows the real sender of the message which is clearly not JDoe.
Yellow shows the senders domain name (section after the @ symbol). If you look you will see in the from field is shows us it is roofwcohd.com, but in the signature they are saying it is realcompanydomain.co.uk. Once again these do not match and the from field is the actual sender.
Red shows the senders signature. I know the spoofed sender John Doe, and due to this I know this is not his email signature. Knowing your contacts and what they normally send is an extremely good giveaway that this is fake.
Green shows the information the spammer wants me to access to infect my machine with a virus or other form of malware. This is another big giveaway as the link is to a service that John Doe does not use or has nevered used in the past.
What is being done to protect us?
Customers who have our spam filtering system at present will hopfully see less of these due to the protection systems we have in place. We are always working to protect people on our platform from receiving these emails.
Unfortunately, if your name is being used to spoof others we do not have a way of stopping this has your name has been captured by the spammers in one way or another. Hopefully the phase of using your name will pass as spammers move on when people learn.
There are many blacklists around the world, and these lists are used reduce load on email systems and improve spam, virus and email garbage detection.
Unfortunately, these lists are not perfect as some list the sending server, others list the senders domain etc. So if you share an email service with a spammer you could be listed by mistake.
So basically a blacklist is a list of email servers, domains and people who have been reported to have been sending spam, viruses or similar content.
Improving the results
We are always looking to improve the results of blacklists by contributing back to them, and companies doing this help improve spam detection without the need of many complex detection rules.
Due to many shared platforms like Office 365, Google, GoDaddy and many other major hosting companies. These blacklists do capture good emails as well, as they could be sharing the same resources as a spammer.
For September we have introduced a big upgrade to our spam service. This upgrade splits all our clients into profiles. These “profiles” enable us to apply filtering settings to just your emails only. As part of these settings we now have white and black lists for each client enabling us to improve results.
Our platform and service will still have global blacklists we use, as well as the hundreds of rules we are always improving. But now we also have our own blacklists and more importantly a whitelist on a per customer basis.
How does this effect us?
Our black/white lists have the highest priority when classifying emails, meaning what we say is final.
If you look at our email detection now, we have the following priority: –
Strobe IT Blacklist/Whitelist
With us having the overriding say it gives us flexibility to aid you greater were a client might be using the same shared platform as a spammer meaning we can add temporary whitelists for them and more.
Who is responsible for getting off Strobe IT’s blacklist
Where a traditional blacklists is 100% down to the sender to resolve, we are not that strict. We understand that not all senders realise they are on blacklists that are otherwise known as “RBLs”.
If a client of ours has an issue with a customer being listed we will accept communication from them to get this looked at and possibly removed.
Unfortunately we still do not control all blocklists out there and suggest anyone using email should always work to stay off the following lists: –
Websites have always used the http:// prefix which tells a browser it’s a webpage. With the introduction of online payments https:// was introduced, this is a secure version of http://. This security was achieved with an SSL certificate to encrypt communication from you to the website.
This was a great move, but getting the standard web user to always check they are using https and not http was hard. So web browsers added a padlock which was green, this made things easy to spot.
As time has gone on, scammers and hackers have improved their techniques. As a result, better information in a simply format is needed.
These changes as a web user will be to your advantage. But to a business with a website you might want to take action.
What is changing?
The first step in these changes came from Google back in 2014 when they stated websites with an SSL would be ranked better. This step has encouraged business to use SSL certificates on all websites and not just online shopping/banking.
Due to smaller businesses and the requirement for SSL being expanded, this has put more importance on the EV SSL certificates which was ratified by Melih Abdulhayoglu and the CA/Browser Forum in 2007.
This is all well and good, but the end user due to web browsers are not getting a clear message. So during August web browsers like Google Chrome will be changing what they display to help.
The below table shows you what you will expect to see any why.
No SSL Certificate
As you can see from your address bar you will be informed that data sent between you and the site is not secure because no encryption is used.
You are not advised to enter any information on sites like this.
Basic SSL Certificate
Basic SSL’s provide encryption for communication between you and the website.
These certificates validate the sites address and data is secure.
Submitting information to a site with this is safe during transport, but you cannot be sure who the company is.
EV SSL Certificate
(Extended Validation SSL)
The extended SSL not only provides you with the same protections as basic but also provides website owner information.
The information in the EV SSL has been verified as part of the validation process so you know the company is real.
With this new layout of information you should be able to make an informed decision where you enter usernames and passwords or personal information.
The scam is a simple social engineering scam to scare you into paying someone in the form of Bitcoin.
This particular scam is stating people have been recorded watching porn on their computers. Some of the emails even suggest that they have also recorded you via your webcam watching it.
So, this might not sound too bad and you could just delete it. But to really scare you the scammers include your password! This password will more than likely be genuine too, increasing the scare factor.
Why do they want payment in Bitcoin?
Usually if you pay for something on the Internet, you use a credit or debit card. That card is connected to information about you, such as your name and billing address.
You can use bitcoin the same way, but unlike a credit card, the transactions you make using the currency are completely anonymous. They can’t be used to identify you personally. Instead, whenever you trade in bitcoin, you use a so-called private key associated with your wallet to generate a bit of code called an address. The address is then publicly associated with your transaction but with no personal identifying information.
How did they get my password?
The honest answer is “no one can say for sure”. What we can say is that the data is likely due to one of the many data breaches that happen throughout the years.
Hopefully the company that was breached have already informed you about the breach and advised you on what was taken. unfortunately, we know this does not always happen or the information was not clear enough.
You check if your data has been part of a breach, visit website https://haveibeenpwned.com. The library found here allows you to check your email address and passwords to see if they have been “pwned” or not. If you find any of your data on haveibeenpwned it is important take any required steps to protect yourself.
What should I do about it?
We have broken down the different parts of the scam so you focus with ease on what to do.
With the email, never reply to it!
If this is your work email address, and you have email filtering and protection from Strobe IT please raise a support ticket where we will advise you on what to do including the deletion of it.
If this is a personal email account or a non Strobe IT protected platform, please report this as spam to them if possible and delete as necessary.
Depending if the password is still used by a service, website or other system will determine what you need to do here. Passwords that are no longer used can be ignored, but if the password is used anywhere change it immediately!
Below is a list of additional steps and items to do, making sure you are safe.
DO NOT pay the scammer.
Change the password as described on all platforms it was used on.
DO NOT use this password EVER again.
Make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date. [Done by Strobe IT for all maintenance clients]
Make sure your operating system (eg, Microsoft Windows) is up-to-date. [Done by Strobe IT for all maintenance clients]
If you can enable and use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
If you wish you can report this phising attempt to Action Fraud.
What if I have paid?
If you have received one of these email and paid the fine, report it to your local police force. Once reported, if you are a maintenance client please raise a support ticket with Strobe IT so we are aware and can aid the police where needed.