Microsoft Discovers Malicious Email Attack from NOBELIUM
Early this year, the Microsoft threat intelligence center began tracking a sophisticated and malicious email phishing campaign targeting many individual users and businesses. The perpetrator, NOBELIUM, has gotten better and better at sidestepping any obstacles presented to them. The results of this have shown compromised data across many platforms.
What is Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center? (MSTIC)
Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, or MSTIC, serves to catch security threats early and keep ahead of them to protect users. In the wake of recent attacks, MSTIC has been dedicated to ramping up safety and response for its users and sharing their insights and knowledge on cybersecurity with the industry at large.
Email Phishing Attacks
A phishing email (or text) serves to trick users into giving out sensitive information. These emails will often look like a message from a company you trust, asking you to verify some billing information or alerting you of suspicious activity on your account. Not only does this result in bank account access, social security numbers, and other important information getting into the wrong hands, but it can also harm the reputations of the companies that scammers are impersonating.
The FTC recommends a few different measures to protect your information. Downloading and frequently updating security software on your computer is an essential first step. You should also update your phone frequently, ensuring that it has the most recent patches and security updates.
Multi-factor authentication is a great way to protect your accounts from anyone attempting to reset your password from their location. And backing up your data to an external source, like a cloud or personal hard drive, will keep your essential files safe even if your personal computer is compromised.
Who is NOBELIUM?
NOBELIUM is known to go after places like government organizations, the military, think tanks, and telecommunications, veiling itself as a US development organization. Their sophisticated tactics have resulted in many businesses and individual users dealing with possible compromised information. Their unique tooling and infrastructure, designed to target specific accounts, has resulted in their attacks staying undetected longer.
While NOBELIUM’s phishing attempts began in September 2020, the organization’s tactics ramped up in January 2021, after they learned from their initial campaign. They likely learned from Microsoft’s responses and tweaked their approach to get around any attempts to thwart them.
An experimentation phase resulted in NOBELIUM evolving its phishing campaigns, resulting in more successful deliveries of malicious emails to recipients. This attempt led to an escalation of efforts through April and May of 2021, resulting in a significant payload from Dropbox, a cloud storage platform.
On May 25, NOBELIUM ramped up its attacks using Constant Contact’s legitimate mass email platform to target 3,000 individual accounts. The lion’s share of the malicious messages was blocked, but some of the earlier recipients were left vulnerable.
How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams
Though these recent attacks are sophisticated and scary, there are still ways you can protect yourself from emails scams. This PGH blog on digital risk provides some excellent solutions.
Look out for:
- Generic greetings or content that could apply to many people. (ex. “Dear sir”)
- An email address with an odd letter or number in the domain name
- Urgency or demands. Any email that flashes “you’ve won!” in large letters or threatens to share your personal information with someone else is not to be trusted.
- Poor grammar or strange phrasing. These may serve the purpose of getting past spam filters.
- All links. Hover over them to be sure that the URL matches the destination that the link is promising.
- If the website is secure. All secure website URLs begin with “https://”
- For suspicious attachments. Do not open any attachment associated with an email that is giving you pause already.
Since technology made its way into our homes and businesses more than 30 years ago, it’s changed how we communicate, work, and process information. First it was the typewriter, then the first computers were introduced, cell phones changed how quickly we could connect, and now we’re seeing technology predict human operations and take over the tasks that were once too dangerous for humans or took up too much valuable time.
Over the next several years, businesses will need to adapt to changes in technology as features like AI, RPA, and Hyperautomation become mainstay. Now is a critical period of transition for businesses as we begin to consider an attainable rollout process for these new systems.
According to a June 2019 study, “How Robots Change the Work,” by global advisory firm Oxford Economics, “The number of robots in use worldwide multiplied threefold over the past two decades, to 2.25 million. Trends suggest the global stock of robots will multiply even faster in the next 20 years, reaching as many as 20 million by 2030.”
Chain retailers have long past adopted using these technologically advanced features to improve how they track consumers, generate revenue, and streamline business processes. Now is the time for other businesses and industries to hop on the AI, Hyperautomation, and RPA bandwagon.
Since the global pandemic has put a significant strain on efficient workflows and processes, the need for approachable business automation has skyrocketed. The market shift has required businesses to adapt to a digital workplace, maintain productive operations, and embrace advancing technologies. Take the time to understand the different methods of modern day business automation now because it is only going to advance from here.
IA vs. RPA vs. Hyperautomation
In the tech industry, there are three different forms of automation on the rise, including Hyperautomation, RPA (robotic process automation), and
Intelligent Automation. Intelligent automation (IA) focuses on the automation of thinking processes, RPA on mimicking human action, and Hyperautomation in its most basic form is a combination of the two.
The three main forms of automation are all intertwined with one another, but reach different respective goals. All automation works toward creating more efficiency, but depending on the form, the level of human input required, and the actions it performs will determine what automation is necessary. Each form will change most companies’ goals from bartering over who can offer the best price, to who can deliver products and services the fastest.
Some of these business process automations may already be in play at your business. Consider the employee onboarding software you use, purchase order requests you file, how you process your payroll, and more. These are common ways most businesses have started to automate their processes, but they could be doing more.
Consider the data analysis tasks your employees perform, how your finance department pays and processes invoices, and how your procurement team orders new products or equipment. The goal of implementing automation processes is to use technology for these repeatable, day-to-day tasks and reallocate your employees’ time elsewhere to further improve business efficiency.
What is Intelligent Automation (IA)?
Intelligent Automation is a combination of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, which together empowers rapid end-to-end business process automation and accelerates digital transformation. According to Automation Anywhere, Intelligent Automation, “spans the entire automation journey—discovery, automation, optimization—automating any front- or back-office business process, and orchestrating work across combined human-bot teams.”
Industries that can benefit most from IA are BPOs, financial services, healthcare, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, public sector, and telecommunications.
The key benefits of Intelligent Automation are:
- An enhanced customer experience
- Fewer errors and exceptions
- Strengthened cybersecurity
- Enhanced compliance
- Automated business processes
- Reduced operational obstacles
- Organized complex data
In today’s enterprise, unstructured information represents 80% of all business data. The rise of IA presents a more streamlined approach to optimizing processes, workflows, and automation paths. To benefit from Intelligent Automation, it is critical to share all unstructured information. This includes human chat conversation, audio, and video. Without this, IA will not be able to make true automation possible.
We anticipate a rise in need for IA this year as many businesses maintain a digital workforce and need to optimize their digital workflow transformation.
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
RPA, or robotic process automation, is a buzz term that’s here to stay. Contrary to what it’s name sounds like, it’s not made of mechanical robots walking (or wheeling) around in place of human line workers. Instead, RPA is made up of software robots mimicking repeatable and mundane human tasks on a device.
There are two main forms of RPA: Assisted and Unassisted. Assisted RPA has human employees and software bots working hand-in-hand. An example of Assisted RPA is where the robot is deployed via the server to an employee’s workstation. The employee accesses it from a desktop menu and has control over where and when it is used.
On the other hand, Unassisted RPA software bots are decentralized on a manual server, allowing manual control. The actions that these software robots can take are the tasks that often take human employees away from their more important core work. Some of these tasks include simple actions such as copying and pasting data, logging into applications, moving files and folders, making calculations, reading and writing to databases, and more.
Currently in advancement is the next step after Unassisted RPA, which is Autonomous RPA and Cognitive RPA. The ideal situation for Unassisted RPA is to automate and scale processes to support the bottom line and eliminate workflow inefficiencies. On the other hand, Cognitive RPA is less tactical and more strategic. Cognitive RPA uses Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing to process unstructured data and aid in the automation of tasks that require judgement.
What is Hyperautomation?
In the most simple terms, Hyperautomation automates mundane, repetitive tasks. The term itself first appeared in October 2019, making it a new but impactful trend in 2020. The combination of a set of digital technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML), and RPA make up the base of what Hyperautomation is. It differs from other automation processes by regarding humans as an essential component of what makes it work.
While RPA largely aims to mimic human tasks and actions, Hyperautomation brings the advancement of human action and human thought (AI) together to create a technology that can do it all in order to give human workers freedom from some of their smaller or more dangerous tasks. This advanced form of business automation has a goal to complete tasks and processes faster, benefiting the business’ production and profit.
The benefits of Hyperautomation include:
- Accelerating Complex Work – provides a quick way to get every employee engaged in transforming the business by automating complex work that relies on input from all.
- Deploying Digital Workers – can take on repetitive tasks to change how employees work. By creating a digital workforce, businesses can create a digital form of shared knowledge the workers can use to discover new processes, analyze data, and create new automation opportunities.
How Advancements in Automation are Changing How We Do Business
As Automation continues to advance, you should expect to see a more efficient and expedited version of end-to-end business process automation, stronger customer service, and more time for human employees to work on things that require deeper thinking. Mundane and repeatable tasks that typically diverge people from completing their important core work will be given to the software bots that can complete them efficiently.
Business goals will also likely change, and begin to focus on efficiency and speed of delivery rather than determining the best price in the market. With the help of AI and ML, business processes will be learned in a matter of minutes, and then optimized for efficiency by the software.
Product delivery processes that once took weeks are now completed within a day, or even hours. Amazon has already taken advantage of automating their processes from the beginning to the end of the supply chain, allowing them to deliver products within the same day. This will become a norm as more companies invest in IA, RPA, and Hyperautomation.
Ali Raza, founder and CEO of ThroughPut noted, “The takeaway for automation strategy is not when to automate, but where to automate. The first step involves streamlining processes and bringing them into control, at which point they’re easier to scale.”
Not every job and task needs to be automated, as some areas of work can only be done by humans, but it’s important for businesses to take a look at their different teams and silos and determine which areas are holding them back by not being automated. Asking those questions will get your company to its optimal potential.
Want to become more efficient? Contact PGH Networks today.
The concept of cloud computing has been around since the 1960s, when computer bureaus would allow companies to rent time on a mainframe, rather than have to buy one themselves, but the term cloud computing only originated recently: during the early 2000s. Since then, cloud computing has only gained popularity as organizations realized that the technology offered a vast number of services for a low charge. According to Gartner, global spending on cloud services will reach $260 billion this year (up from $219.6 billion).
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is an internet-based service that allows individuals to access services that were traditionally only available via download online. For example, Google Docs allows users to create and edit documents online, share these documents with collaborators so they can see adjustments in real-time, and access documents from any computer instead of just the computer the document was created on. This is only one example of cloud computing, and the technology is available for a variety of on-demand computing services, from applications to storage, typically on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Cloud computing allows companies to rent access to services that previously would have required them to own their own computing infrastructure or data centers from a cloud service provider. This technology offers many benefits to companies, particularly in terms of scalability.
Benefit of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing offers organizations a number of advantages, from increasing efficiency to minimizing capital expenditure. Here are the top three reasons why you should consider taking your organization to the cloud:
Cloud computing is ideal for the remote workforce, offering a level of flexibility that traditional IT infrastructure cannot. Not only does the pay-as-you-go nature of the cloud make it ideal for businesses to scale capacity up or down as needed, it makes it easy for teams to collaborate from anywhere at any time.
According to Salesforce data, 51% of employees have found that emerging technologies like cloud computing save both time and effort once integrated. Not only does this create streamlined content for improved collaboration, it means that your employees can access data at times most convenient for them.
Cloud computing technologies allow businesses to avoid the high costs of hardware. With subscription-based models that make it easy to pay for what your organization needs, cloud computing providers make setting up and managing an IT infrastructure easy and affordable.
Risks of Cloud Computing
While there are significant advantages to moving your organization onto the cloud, it is important to understand the risks associated with cloud computing to fully protect your organization against cyber threats.
Cloud environments experience the same threats as traditional data centers; however, unlike traditional data centers, organizations that operate in the cloud accept some of the responsibility for mitigating the risks associated with software vulnerabilities. For instance, organizations need to perform monitoring and analysis of information about applications, services, data, and users.
Is your organization considering the switch to cloud computing? Learn more about the services and technology PGH Networks can provide. Reach out to us today: contact us today.