SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

SaaS platforms - The new Wild West of malware

By Kai Ping Lew
Tue 9 Jan 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Proofpoint researchers have identified a vulnerability that allows attackers to leverage Google Apps Script to automatically download arbitrary malware hosted in Google Drive to a victim's computer. 

Google Apps Script is a development platform based on JavaScript that allows both the creation of standalone web apps and powerful extensions to various elements of the Google Apps SaaS ecosystem. 

Proofpoint research has found that Google Apps Script and the normal document sharing capabilities built into Google Apps supported automatic malware downloads and sophisticated social engineering schemes designed to convince recipients to execute the malware once it has been downloaded. 

Proofpoint also confirmed that it was possible to trigger exploits with this type of attack without user interaction, making it more urgent that organisations mitigated these threats before they reach end users, whenever possible.

Proofpoint's exploit begun by uploading malicious files or malware executables on Google Drive, to which threat actors could create a public link. 

Actors could then share an arbitrary Google Doc to be used as a lure and vehicle for a Google Apps Script that delivers the shared malware.

While Proofpoint frequently observes Google Docs phishing and malware distribution via links to Google Drive URLs, extensible SaaS platforms allow greater degrees of sophistication, malware propagation, and automation that are also much more difficult to detect. 

In this approach, because recipients received a legitimate link to edit a Google Doc -- as many people do on a daily basis -- the old rules of email hygiene apply here as much as ever. 

Google has imposed new restrictions on simple triggers to block phishing and malware distribution attempts that are triggered by opening a doc. 

However, recipients also should exercise caution clicking even links to Google Docs unless they know or can verify the sender. 

Moreover, this vulnerability automatically downloaded a malicious file and relied on social engineering to convince the recipient to open it; users should be wary of files automatically downloaded by web-based or SaaS platforms and be cognizant of the anatomy of a social engineering attack while organisations should focus on mitigating these threats before they reach end users if possible.

Since Proofpoint disclosed this vulnerability to Google, the company has added specific restrictions on certain Apps Script events that could potentially be abused. 

Google now blocks both installable triggers -- customisable events that cause certain events to occur automatically -- and simple triggers like onOpen and onEdit from presenting custom interfaces in Docs editors in another user’s session. 

However, the proof of concept Proofpoint provided to Google and recently presented at the DeepSec Conference demonstrates the ability of threat actors to use extensible SaaS platforms to deliver malware to unsuspecting victims in even more powerful ways than they have with Microsoft Office macros over the last several years. 

Moreover, the limited number of defensive tools available to organisations and individuals against this type of threat makes it likely that threat actors will attempt to abuse and exploit these platforms more often as we become more adept at protecting against macro-based threats.

SaaS platforms remain a “Wild West” for threat actors and defenders alike.

New tools like Google Apps Script are rapidly adding functionality while threat actors look for novel ways of abusing these platforms.

At the same time, few tools exist that can detect threats generated by or distributed via legitimate software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms.

This creates considerable opportunities for threat actors who can leverage newfound vulnerabilities or use “good for bad”: making use of legitimate features for malicious purposes.

With malicious Microsoft Office macros, threat actors introduced layers of obfuscation, new techniques, and innovative approaches designed to better deliver malware payloads.

The same level of innovation is likely as SaaS applications become increasingly mainstream and threat actors become more sophisticated in their abuse of these tools.

Organisations will need to apply a combination of SaaS application security, end-user education, endpoint security, and email gateway security to stay ahead of the curve of this emerging threat.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Microsoft
Elevation of Privilege the top 2021 Microsoft vulnerability
BeyondTrust has released its 2022 Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report, finding that Elevation of Privilege is the top vulnerability category for the second consecutive year.
Story image
Malware
'Alarming' rise in ransomware threats - Verizon report
As criminals look to leverage increasingly sophisticated forms of malware, it is ransomware that continues to prove particularly successful.
Story image
Phishing
WhatsApp and QR codes the next scam threat - report
KnowBe4 has warned it expects to see an increase in QR Codes and the WhatsApp chat platform being used for phishing and other scams. 
Story image
Check Point
Check Point and CCTV expert join forces to boost protection
The partnership will involve Check Point Quantum IoT Protect Nano Agent being embedded in Provision-ISR’s CCTV cameras for on-device runtime protection.
Story image
Cybersecurity
BlackBerry offers Kaspersky replacement cybersecurity for the channel
BlackBerry advises that users of Kaspersky software in Australia and New Zealand undertake a rigorous risk analysis of their current security posture.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity prompts upgrade for 1.3 billion electricity meters
ABI Research finds Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and cybersecurity concerns are prompting the upgrade of 1.3 billion electricity meters by 2027.
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.
Story image
Kubernetes
Sysdig unveils new Kubernetes troubleshooting and cloud innovations
Sysdig has introduced two new innovations that look to help bolster cloud services and simplify Kubernetes troubleshooting.
Story image
Silver Peak
The path to an adaptive, modern network
Managing and securing the network looks different than it did just two years ago—especially given that most of these networks are made up of multi-generations of infrastructure stitched together over time.
Story image
Ponemon Institute
Email revealed to be riskiest channel for data loss
More than half (60%) of organisations experienced data loss or exfiltration caused by an employee mistake on email in the last 12 months.
Story image
Ransomware
APAC organisations fail to disclose ransomware breaches
85% of organisations in APAC were breached by ransomware at least once in the past five years, but only 28% publicly disclosed the incident.
Story image
Cyber attacks
Devastating cyber attacks expected to hit energy sector
Energy executives anticipate life, property, and environment-compromising cyber attacks on the sector within the next two years.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Managed service provider
Barracuda MSP Day 2022 highlights MSP opportunities
Barracuda Networks has released a report showing global services-related MSP revenue is set to increase by more than a third in 2022 compared to 2021.
Story image
New Relic
New Relic launches vulnerability management platform
New Relic has introduced New Relic Vulnerability Management to help organisations find and address security risks faster and with greater precision.
Story image
Ransomware
CERT NZ releases first Cyber Security Insights for 2022
CERT NZ has released Quarter One: Cyber Security Insights 2022, which offers an overview of reports about cybersecurity incidents affecting New Zealanders.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Cybersecurity
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
Surveillance
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
Cybersecurity
NCSC advisory highlights poor security configurations
The GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released a cyber security advisory identifying commonly exploited controls and practices.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Comcast to use ThreatQuotient for cybersecurity operations
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal and SKY Group, has chosen ThreatQ Platform and ThreatQ Investigations to meet their cybersecurity needs.
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Booster
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image
Story image
SaaS
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Asia Pacific plagued by sophisticated bad bots - report
The three most common bot attacks were account takeover, content or price scraping, and scalping to obtain limited-availability items.
Story image
Training
Infosec unveils role-guided cybersecurity training roadmaps
Infosec Skills Roles maps hands-on training and certifications to the 12 most in-demand cybersecurity roles to maximise training efficiency.
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
SaaS
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Story image
Malware
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Data Protection
Information management capabilities to meet privacy requirements
Organisations with customers or operations across more than one country face a spate of new and proposed privacy and data protection laws.
Story image
Apricorn
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Story image
Training
Trojan cyber attacks hitting SMBs harder than ever - Kaspersky
In 2022 the number of Trojan-PSW detections increased by almost a quarter compared to the same period in 2021 to reach 4,003,323.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Accenture - a collective security approach a driving factor for cyber resilience
With the approaching Davos World Economic Forum upon us, it is even more imperative to discuss the impact of cybersecurity on business operations leading into the future.
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Qualys
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Ransomware
APAC ranks third-highest region targeted by ransomware
Asia Pacific has ranked the third-highest region globally to be targeted by ransomware, according to cybersecurity firm Group-IB.
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Noname Security partners with Netpoleon to target API issues
Specialist API security firm Noname Security has appointed Netpoleon as its distributor in Australia and New Zealand.