Category: Croyten’s Blog


A series of ransomware attacks and other cyber threats have plagued back-to-school plans.  Just last week, Hartford’s ransomware attack caused an outage of critical systems, including the school district’s software system that delivers real-time information on bus routes. The attacks include Zoom-bombing, a trend that began earlier in 2020 which occurs when a bad actor gains access to the dial-in information and “crashes” a Zoom session – often sharing adult or otherwise disturbing content. As students prepare to return to school virtually, school districts should prepare and step up their security in battling these virtual classroom hijacking attacks.

To further learn about Ransomware you can check our full article on the said topic at {insert link}. If you need IT solutions or assistance with your cyber security, feel free to check out our company, Croyten.

Remote Workers: At-Risk for Cyber Attacks

By Amine Mekkaoui,

Recently, a cyber attack on Twitter took place when a 17 year old hacker posed as a trusted colleague and tricked a Twitter employee into sharing user credentials by using basic hacking techniques. The hacker was then able to spoof the Twitter employee’s phone number through SIM swapping obtaining personal information and intercepted the one-time passwords (OTPs) used for multi-factor authentication (MFA) and quickly elevated his privileges inside the company.

With so many businesses shifting to remote work, the days of the IT-controlled security perimeter are long gone. Cybercriminals are fully aware of the mass work-from-home shift, and they’re crafting their attacks accordingly. If things like this can exist in big companies like Twitter, it could like work in yours too.

If you want to strengthen the security of your organization’s cyber system and have employees that are cyber-competent, it might be interesting for you to check out our company, Croyten. We specialize in IT solutions and cybersecurity.

Have you ever mistyped a website domain – maybe a few missed letters here, a forgotten hyphen there, or entering a wrong domain ending – and found yourself, not a 404 error message, but in an unfamiliar sinister website? 

This phenomenon is called typosquatting – a type of cybersquatting used by imposters that involve registering domains with intentionally misspelled names of popular web addresses to install malware on the user’s system. It is basically typo hijacking that operates on the carelessness of the user when it comes to correctly entering the URL.

Some extreme forms of typosquatting are similar to phishing where the wrong website mimics the real site, thus confusing the user with a false knowledge that he/she has visited the right website.

Typosquatting is also a form of social engineering scams which I discussed in my previous blog. Social engineering is an act of exploiting human vulnerabilities where a cyber criminal will trick people with sophisticated methods while hiding their real identity and intent. It operates through manipulation, and the internet has given these criminals numerous ways to do that.

If your organization is currently idle about security issues, it’s time to rethink your strategy and do not forget about the human factor side of your company.


So how do you protect your business from these kinds of threats? Well, training employees certainly is a good start. You can provide your staff with the following know-hows: 

  • Never disclose confidential information, such as passwords or bank details, over email exchange or telephone.
  • If you find yourself with a suspicious email, the motto is always better not to react than to fall for the scam, because if it is legitimately important, the sender will try to contact you through another route.
  • In the case of supposedly urgent emails, it is advisable to check the authenticity of the sender by telephone.
  • Always keep an eye on social media fake accounts and report them to avoid angler phishing and social web threats.
  • Lastly, live up to the desired cyber-security awareness yourself.

A robust domain defense strategy can ensure company success in the long run, but so as including your human resource in this strategy. If your organization is currently idle about security issues, it’s time to rethink your strategy and do not forget about the human factor side of your company. There are multiple IT solutions that can guide you in things like this, helping you build a better and secured system within your organization. Since social engineering is targeted at humans, your organization is at risk of being attacked anytime. So it is best to keep in mind that the protection of your clients and employees also means protection of your organization.

WhatsApp Commits To More Transparency About App Flaws

By Amine Mekkaoui,

WhatsApp update flaws

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has fixed six previously undisclosed vulnerabilities in its chat platform. Some of the bugs were:

1) a URL-validation issue that caused the recipient of a sticker message containing deliberately malformed data to load an image from a sender-controlled URL without user interaction; and

2) an input-validation issue that could have allowed cross-site scripting if a user clicked on a link from a specially-crafted live location message. WhatsApp have patched these bugs as soon as they were discovered, and said that they will keep “with industry best practices” and conduct “necessary fixes”.

Reference: https://threatpost.com/whatsapp-discloses-6-bugs-dedicated-security-site/158962/

Social Engineering, a Cyber Crime Waiting to Happen

By Amine Mekkaoui,

Social engineering is just one of the many threats that we have today, especially with our current environment. With awareness and knowledge about cybercrime tactics, we can always be one step ahead in protecting our personal information and our companies.

More than ever, today, companies communicate with their employees, vendors, and clients through online apps. With this, it is common knowledge that not everyone is technologically sophisticated, and this is where cyber criminals can take advantage and do what they do best which is to find vulnerabilities and a weak link that will get them access to confidential and personal information.

One way to accomplish this is by using a method called “Social Engineering”.

WHAT IS SOCIAL ENGINEERING?

According to the University of Delaware, SOCIAL ENGINEERING is basically influencing another person or manipulating them into handing over personal data or information about a person or a company by pretending to be someone the individual or a company is related to usually through the use of the internet or any gadget, e-mails or even phone calls and texts.

Our social media logs and public records can be stitched together to highlight our profile, including where we live, our phone numbers, email addresses, friends we know, the names of our kids, our parents names, and places we previously lived.

Most users use simple and easy to remember passwords to access critical online applications they use daily.  Additionally, our personal information is readily available on the net.  Our social media logs and public records can be stitched together to highlight our profile, including where we live, our phone numbers, email addresses, friends we know, the names of our kids, our parents names, and places we previously lived.  These information can be used by hackers as a first step to approach their victims to extort access privilege to their bank accounts and/or business/employers applications.

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

With today’s work from home revolution where most transactions happen online, companies are at stake. Social Engineers are all at an advantage especially when companies are not prepared and well protected.

Social engineers are experts at trying to manipulate the person’s ability to trust. Commonly, banks or financial companies are their target since most of the time, money is what they are after. And in order to get it, they need to gather personal information about their clients. 

Social engineers take time to learn the so-called ‘Work Lingo’ in order to fool a client and maintain a legitimate image in giving a personal information which the social engineer then uses to have his personal data in the said agency or company, or in bank cases, his money.

Joan Goodchild, a journalist from California who writes about security and technology, further reiterated in her article entitled ‘ Social Engineering Tricks That Fool Unsuspecting Employees’, that social engineers tend to gain the trust of clients when they pretend as employees of a company. Social engineers take time to learn the so-called ‘Work Lingo’ in order to fool a client and maintain a legitimate image in giving a personal information which the social engineer then uses to have his personal data in the said agency or company, or in bank cases, his money.

Not just clients, but social engineers may also fool other employees pretending as one of them, hacking their way through the company’s domain, learning protocols and routines of the company to get themselves as an insider. They will pretend to ask for help from their ‘fellow employees’ for example as an auditor, or law officer who needs access to private information, and the said employee will unknowingly help them take care of the matter.

Statistically speaking, according to a study by The Radicati Group in 2019, there are about 3.9 billion active email users around the world. It is expected that the figures have already increased in the past months. This is supported by Clement, a known internet and e-commerce researcher, which says that the number of email usage over the past years from 2018-2023 were set to 2-3% increase which may imply the increase of email users to 4.48 billion in 2024. 

These are not mere numbers, in fact these are the number of email users which may be considered to be at risk. Most of them are professionals and employees.

HOW CAN I PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING?

If you are the part of a company handling business information:

a.)   Be aware and suspicious of a person calling, and emailing who is claiming to have a business contact with one of your company employees to garner information – this may be done through double checking your client/vendor list to verify the person identity and confirm it with the employee.  An example of this communication would be; “hi, I am John Doe, and I was hired by your CFO Jane Doe, who gave me your contact information to fix a database issue on your accounting application, can you please help me get access so I can take a look”

b.)   Do not provide information about the company you work for, either, unless instructed by your employer. This may commonly happen through calls in call center companies, or those who may pretend to need this through customer service. The company may also enforce strict security to protect and ensure the identity of its employees.

c.)   Be aware of suspicious emails from people who are pretending to have a business relationship as a vendor or a client with your employer using legitimate emails from known companies including banks and credit cards. If you don’t know who’s emailing you, don’t give out any information, unless you verify the sender with your manager.

If the information which may be at risk is yours:

a.)   In many cases, online applications have been offering double authentication features to access your app using information which will be provided by you and you alone.  This could be a code you’ll get via a text  or voice message to a registered phone in your account profile for that application, which you will need to authenticate and get access to your app.

b.)   Be careful of giving out your information, if you are pressured to give information, be suspicious and deny the request unless you can confirm their identity from someone you know and trust.

c.)   Sometimes, even mere phone calls may be used to track down your information, be alert and vigilant in taking these calls or answering text messages requesting your personal information.

Social engineering is just one of the many threats that we have today, especially with our current environment. With awareness and knowledge about cybercrime tactics, we can always be one step ahead in protecting our personal information and our companies.

Do you need more information about this? Let’s chat and talk about the struggles we have in the industry and how we can work together to move forward and survive these struggles.

In our next blog, I will be discussing a new trend among social engineers – typosquatting.  As for now, beware and never be a victim of any online fraud and cybercrime.

When Artificial Intelligence Meets Data Analytics

By Amine Mekkaoui,

When AI meets Data Analytics by Croyten

If you are from an organization that strives to function in a highly-technological environment, then it is crucial that you know the relation of big data and artificial intelligence: the latter depends heavily on the former for success, while also helping organizations unlock the potential in their data stores in ways that were previously cumbersome or impossible. Leveraging well-managed and presented data can improve organizations big-time. The problem is, handling data is stressful due to a variety of reasons.

Data Analytics is the process of making sense of and transforming data into useful knowledge. This process is composed of many stages and phases, and while there are software or tools that exist to assist, data-wrangling – the exhaustive process of cleaning and organizing data – is still rarely addressed. Obviously, practical data analytics is painful, and a helping hand in the form of automation through artificial intelligence can make a huge difference in this field.

To revolutionize the speed and efficiency with which data can be transformed into useful knowledge is the goal of The Alan Turing Institute’s Artificial Intelligence for Data Analytics project, otherwise known as AIDA. According to the initiative, it aims to combine multidisciplinary work from machine learning, semantic technologies, and programming languages to: (1) Build AI assistants for individual tasks, (2) Build an open-source platform and integrate the assistants into the platform; and (3) Provide exemplar use cases of real-world data wrangling. It also aims to solve some data engineering challenges such as. (a) data organisation (data parsing, integration, dictionary, and transformation); (b) data quality (canonicalisation, missing data, anomaly detection); and (c) feature engineering.


Data analytics required a lot of effort but with the help of AI, not only did it speed up the process but also allowed depth in making sense of data in the past.

AI-related initiatives like AIDA fuel better opportunities in insights and knowledge production since it is creating new methods in analyzing data, and data analytics has become less labor-intensive. Data analytics required a lot of effort but with the help of AI, not only did it speed up the process but also allowed depth in making sense of data in the past. In fact, AI is now deemed promising as it thrives in different kinds of industries. 

AI in Action

AI and machine learning are powerful levers when it comes to big data. Together with the power of human intuition, they are critical to helping businesses have a more holistic view of all of that data. It revolutionizes the way you get rules, decisions, and predictions done which entail the increase of the potential to dramatically improve the productivity of data scientists, analysts, and researchers benefiting governments and organizations because it will allow faster delivery of insights and decision-making.

Insurance Sector 

A recent study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2020) encourages the insurance sector to prepare incorporating AI in their specific context. For instance, having more data leads to improved predictive analytics, enabling pricing that is better suited to expected risk. And since insurance is based on predicting how risk is realised, having access to big data has the potential to transform the entire insurance production process.

Healthcare

Payers and providers of care, and life sciences companies have started employing several types of AI in various categories such as diagnosis and treatment, patient engagement, recommendations, and administrative practices (Future Healthc, 2019). It will take many years before AI completely erases humans in medical domains, but at the moment, it has made a promising impact in the medical field: 1) Algorithms are already outperforming radiologists at spotting malignant tumours, and guiding researchers in how to construct cohorts for costly clinical trials; 2) Machine Learning is deemed to have the primary capability behind development of precision medicine; and 3) AI-based capabilities are deemed effective in personalising and contextualising care by, for example, sending messaging alerts with relevant and targeted content that provoke actions at moments.

Government

With AI in data analytics, data-driven governments are reaping a more efficient and convenient delivery of public services, and better-informed policymaking with predictive analytics, policy simulations, and real-time early warning systems because the use of technologies allows them to observe their citizens and physical environment with unprecedented data density and analyse these observations (European Liberal Forum, 2019).


While AI is yet to be explored, it has been actively changing and making a big difference not just in the field of data analytics, but also in the market as a whole.

By bringing the fusion of AI and Data Analytics, Croyten can assist you to ensure that your organization can potentially reap the benefits this advancement is opening. While AI is yet to be explored, it has been actively changing and making a big difference not just in the field of data analytics, but also in the market as a whole. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, new products are developed which are better than before, and the opportunity of autonomy it offers saves businesses huge amounts of time, leading to quicker decisions gleaned from data. 

Data is the new oil, they say. If so, data analytics is the vehicle that processes this oil, and artificial intelligence plays the role of an upgraded machine system. Combine them altogether and they can make your organization stand out from the rest.

Protect Your Company Against Possible Ransomware Attacks

By Amine Mekkaoui,

Countless cyberattacks especially ransomware are now being experienced across the globe despite the global pandemic that is haunting every corners of our world. In fact, the gravity of the situation made the US and UK to release joint statements against ransomware.

‘Anytime there’s a global event, hackers like to weaponized it. So whether it’s the Olympics or an election, or a global pandemic, hackers are trying to leverage what the situation is against users’, Bloomberg News Cyber Security Reporter Kartikay Mehrota shared in a published online report.

But don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that other institutions and companies are spared.

But what is even worse here is, most attacks in the recent months were against medical institutions, hospitals, government agencies and medical universities who are at the frontline in the fight against the deadly coronavirus.

Just recently, University of California who is conducting medical researches about the COVID-19, has been extorted with more than a million dollar after their servers were hacked. This is just one among the bigtime ransomware attacks recorded at the height of this pandemic.

But don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that other institutions and companies are spared. Let us not forget that anyone can be a victim by these attacks as I discussed in my previous blog ‘Ransomware is no longer just a threat’.

The question now here is, how can you protect your company against ransomware and other cyber-related attacks?

There’s much to be done to make sure that your data and company are protected. But here are the most significant tips which can be helpful to you:

1. Conduct a risk-assessment in your company – it is important that you know the vulnerability of your company to ransomware attacks. Conduct risk assessments to your entire infrastructure and cloud services. You can use an SaaS online tool like AuditRun to assess your risk and mitigate it.

2. Update all business devices – it is very crucial that all devices operating system in the company are updated especially anti-virus and anti-malware software. It is also recommended to use VPN and multi-factor authentication in your cloud services including email and teleconferences.

3. Educate your employees – implement employee training sessions that will help them identify and prevent ransomware attacks. It is crucial to remind your employees the followings to:

a. Be mindful of links and attachments being sent thru emails as these may consist of the malware or virus that could encrypt some or the entire company data. Employees must also be reminded to be wary about COVID-related emails – they must learn to verify the content of the email and/or the email sender. They must never take the bait.

b. Never provide personal information to txt messages, to callers, and email messages. Fraudsters aim at tricking users to give them key information that will enable them to gain access and control of company systems by using social engineering methods.

4. Implement the use of privilege accounts – one way to limit your network’s exposure to malware is to implement a system that would restrict the installation of software that is not on the approved list of applications that is published by the company’s IT and/or security team.

5. Prepare a data back-up and recovery plan – one way to be prepared for any possible ransomware attacks is to have a data back-up and recovery plan. This has proven to lessen the damage and impact of cyberattacks and ransomware schemes. The goal is to inform bad actors that they can no longer make money easily using ransomware or similar methods.

Today when everyone is hungry for information, and some are living in fear – we are vulnerable and a good malware target. Let’s not allow cybercriminals gain more power and make us victims. In this digital world, it is always important to be one step ahead.


At this rate, we may not be able to completely stop them, but we can solidify our defenses to fight such attacks and manage our risk.

Ransomware Is No Longer Just A Threat

By Amine Mekkaoui,

On April 2016, I have written an article on ransomware and how it can be a major threat to major organizations and government agencies. Now, some of the biggest companies, several of which are listed in the Fortune 500, recently faced several attacks from cybercriminals which encrypted their system and personal files demanding ransom to restore their access.

This happened at a time when these hospitals and healthcare providers are at its most desperate and struggling time.

Just last April 2020, these cybercriminals exploited the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, to break into records of various hospitals and healthcare companies. One of which is the Hammersmith Medicines Research in London who is at the forefront in conducting clinical trials for a new vaccine against the Covid-19. As expected, hackers encrypted the company’s patient records using it as a bait to get what they want.

This happened at a time when these hospitals and healthcare providers are at its most desperate and struggling time.

This incident is just one among the long list of ransomware attacks in the world. In 2019, two city governments in Florida (Lodi and Lake City) suffered multiple threats in a separate incident involving ransomware.

In Lodi, hackers targeted phones and financial services that badly affected the city’s ability to access swaths of its data. While in Lake City, utility maps and geographic information system including important documents such as records for minutes and city resolutions were compromised. Both cities were left with no choice but to heed to the hackers’ demands and were forced to pay a total of $1,060,000.00 to retrieve access of their IT systems.

Given the series of ransomware attacks in the recent years, Federal Bureau of Investigation Cybersection Chief Herbert Stapleton said that he now considers ransomware as one of the most serious cybercriminal problems we face right now.

Available data supports Stapleton as cybersecurity firm Emisoft reported an unprecedented ransomware attacks to more than 200,000 organizations in year 2019 alone. Topping the biggest ransomware attack in 2019 was Danish hearing aid manufacturer Deman which suffered a recovery and mitigation costs amounting $80 million to $95 million.

On the other hand, the single largest-known payout for a ransomware attack has been recorded in June 2017 after hackers infected more than 150 Linux servers hosted by South Korean web provider Nayan that shut down 3,400 websites. The company paid a whopping $1,000,000 to restore their access.

This is a software code usually embedded in an email and believable links that has the ability to immediately hacks into the computer system and starts locking data one-by-one from photos, videos to documents and applications.

But what exactly is ransomware? This is a software code usually embedded in an email and believable links that has the ability to immediately hacks into the computer system and starts locking data one-by-one from photos, videos to documents and applications. The only way to regain access to these data is to pay a specific amount of money to hackers in exchange for the decryption of files. The hackers taking control of the data have the key which will only be accessible if the demanded ransom is paid.

But more than the cost lost in these cyberattacks are the millions of private files essential in the operation of various government agencies, academic institutions, banks and hospitals among others which are at risked of being exposed. This has been confirmed after Emisoft reported that prolific ransom operators create their own websites to publish the stolen data of nonpaying victims.

This is the very reason why we need to be educated on these kinds of cyberattacks which are undeniably rampant today. A lack of understanding on these kinds of cybercrimes leads to a bigger problem of being exposed. Fact here is, ransomware is no longer just a threat. It is happening and is just waiting to attack its new victim. If this can prey big companies, clearly no one is spared.

Note: Coming out soon, Five Ways to Prevent from being Exposed to Ransomware

Is Your Reputation At Risk?

By Amine Mekkaoui,

You’ve done everything to build and brand a great product and company, everything to keep your clients’ data safe…but sometimes things can go wrong and you will be the first one blamed.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Risks 2012 report, on average, more than 25 percent of a company’s market value is directly attributable to its reputation, and that number continues to climb.

Reputational risks are caused by many intended, and unintended events, for example: a cyberattack on a retailer’s credit card data, manipulating markets or making trades based on insider data, employing under-aged workers overseas for a “US-based” company, or accidently serving contaminated or expired food at a restaurant.

Whether the event is intended or unintended, the responsibility ultimately belongs to the company’s CEO and their management team. Why, because it directly impacts revenue and the company’s brand.

One of the major reputational risks today is systems interruptions and Cybersecurity. Any interruption to services – whether it be from a cyber attack, system-wide outage, human error, or security breach, is a business disruption that goes all the way up to the C-suite executives down to their clients, and can cost extremely valuable time and money to repair…not to mention the damage to your reputation.

Some things are out of your control and customers will understand that; for example, a storm knocking out power and shutting down your systems. They won’t, however, be as understanding if you weren’t proactive in safeguarding your company. So how to do you stay ahead of the problems?

  • If a third-party is hosting your data or is the hub of your operation you still need to remain in control. When their systems go down or are breached, your clients are coming to you with their complaints – because ultimately you are responsible. One way to be proactive with a third-party vendor is to have them comply with your own internal requirements.
  • Make sure you have a tested disaster/incident recovery plan in place. Disaster/incident recovery planning is a huge undertaking and touches every part of your organization, but having a plan and testing it will help you face any challenges down the road.
  • When something goes wrong you will need the entire company on board, not just the IT team who’s going to work around the clock to remedy the situation. Your top management teams, PR professionals, customer support, and even your marketing staff need to be involved, and know what the company response is, and how it’s being communicated.
  • Be proactive. Invest in data analytics that will enable you to analyze real- time data, such as pattern detection and recognition. Keep on top of social media using text analysis that will pinpoint conversations about your company. Social media combined with big data analysis will help you get ahead of the crisis and lessen the impact. This combination could be the most important and impactful decision you make, better than business liability insurance!
  • Learn from mistakes. Hopefully you are not the target of a company-wide disruption, be it human error or cyber attack, but chances are some company, somewhere around the world is being hit right now. Most won’t make the front page news of the Wall Street Journal, but you need to be ready to respond to incidents whether they are the result by cyber security attacks, third-party partner action or employees’ mistakes. Loss of reputation is beyond repair if not properly and systematically addressed.
  • Make sure that you know what your business risks are and that you are up to date with managing them all the time. Managing your business risks are not a one-time event. Each component that contributes to the risks must be monitored in real time. There are multiple tools and technologies that will facilitate managing and monitoring both your business and operational risks.

In the end it’s your company name, your reputation, and your responsibility to ensure the integrity of your brand.

A Collections of Data and Things

By Amine Mekkaoui,

Within seconds, a company executive in the U.S. can know exactly how many parts their global manufacturing plants are producing. A delivery company can tell you exactly to the minute when their truck will be arriving. A utility company can monitor usage across the country and know when it’s reaching a peak. All of this can be done because of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data.

The IoT is basically a collection of Internet – enabled devices or sensors, other than your computer, which are connected to the Internet and can send and receive data. Big data is what you get when all of this information is collected and analyzed.

Devices such as smartphones, scanners, sensors, and GPS can gather and distribute a lot of information. IoT technology allows the input from these devices to be pulled together. Once it’s all been collected, companies can utilize big data analytics tools to improve business operations, manage equipment and people, target marketing and make their business run more effectively and efficiently.

The IoT is forcing people and companies to change the way they look at things. Information is being funneled fast, in large amounts, structured and unstructured and from places we never thought we’d get information from. Refrigerators talking to smartphones for a shopping list, or fitness trackers measuring your burned calories, sensors sending vital health data to doctors to monitor their patient‘s health in real time, and anything else you can imagine. Vendors can then use that information for marketing directly to consumers or provide better and timely service. Inventory in stores could soon be reliant on just a sensor on a shelf that indicates when an item needs to be restocked.

The next step for businesses is to figure out how to make the most of the data pouring in from things like smart meters, devices, and sensors. How is this data going to affect your next business decision and how is it all going to be analyzed?

Companies need to plan for a continuing influx of data as more devices become connected and interconnected. You need the bandwidth to store data, the real-time analytical tools to analyze it, and the ability to monetize it and turn it into something profitable. Without a plan, you could be left behind.