Ransomware 1H 2017 review: Global outbreaks reinforce the value of security hygiene

In the first six months of 2017, ransomware threats reached new levels of sophistication. The same period also saw the reversal of a six-month downward trend in ransomware encounters. New ransomware code was released at a higher rate with increasing complexity. Two high-profile ransomware incidents brought cybersecurity to the forefront of mainstream conversations as the…


Links in phishing-like emails lead to tech support scam

Tech support scams continue to evolve, with scammers exploring more ways to reach potential victims. Recently, we have observed spam campaigns distributing links that lead to tech support scam websites. Anti-spam filters in Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) for Office 365 and in Outlook.com blocked the said emails because they bore characteristics of phishing emails….

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Windows Defender Antivirus cloud protection service: Advanced real-time defense against never-before-seen malware

For cybercriminals, speed is the name of the game. It takes newly released malware an average of just four hours to achieve its goal—steal financial information, extort money, or cause widespread damage. In a recent report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that cybercriminals will use hacked or stolen information within nine minutes of posting in…

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Detecting stealthier cross-process injection techniques with Windows Defender ATP: Process hollowing and atom bombing

Advanced cyberattacks emphasize stealth and persistence: the longer they stay under the radar, the more they can move laterally, exfiltrate data, and cause damage. To avoid detection, attackers are increasingly turning to cross-process injection. Cross-process injection gives attackers the ability to run malicious code that masquerades as legitimate programs. With code injection, attackers don’t have…

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Windows 10 platform resilience against the Petya ransomware attack

(Note: Read our latest comprehensive report on ransomware: Ransomware 1H 2017 review: Global outbreaks reinforce the value of security hygiene.)   The Petya ransomware attack on June 27, 2017 (which we analyzed in-depth in this blog) may have been perceived as an outbreak worse than last month’s WannaCrypt (also known as WannaCry) attack. After all, it…

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Understanding the true size of “Fireball”

Keeping tabs on the movement of cybersecurity threats, understanding the size and scope of attacks, and disrupting cybercriminal campaigns through next-gen technologies are fundamental parts of our day-to-day work at Microsoft Windows Defender Research. So when recent reports of the “Fireball” cybersecurity threat operation were presented as a new discovery, our teams knew differently because…

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MSRT June 2017: Removing sneaky Xiazai

In the June release of the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), we’re adding Xiazai, a widespread family of browser modifiers that we have blocked and removed from millions of computers since 2015. Xiazai is a software bundler that can sneak in additional changes. Xiazai does not install itself or make autostart registry entries, but…

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WannaCrypt ransomware worm targets out-of-date systems

(Note: Read our latest comprehensive report on ransomware: Ransomware 1H 2017 review: Global outbreaks reinforce the value of security hygiene.)   On May 12, 2017 we detected a new ransomware that spreads like a worm by leveraging vulnerabilities that have been previously fixed. While security updates are automatically applied in most computers, some users and enterprises…

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Combating a spate of Java malware with machine learning in real-time

In recent weeks, we have seen a surge in emails carrying fresh malicious Java (.jar) malware that use new techniques to evade antivirus protection. But with our research team’s automated expert systems and machine learning models, Windows 10 PCs get real-time protection against these latest threats. Attackers are constantly changing their methods and tools. We…

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Tech support scams persist with increasingly crafty techniques

(Note: Our Tech support scams FAQ page has the latest info on this type of threat, including scammer tactics, fake error messages, and the latest scammer hotlines.)   Millions of users continue to encounter technical support scams. Data from Windows Defender SmartScreen (which is used by both Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer to block malicious…

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