You know, as we steadily progress into the 21st Century, I for one am seeing a lot of criminal behavior CHANGING; or should I say, EVOLVING into something much more devious and utterly mind-blowing than anyone, especially me, could have ever imagined 20 years ago. Now, you don’t need a gun and a mask to rob a bank or hold something or someone hostage…No, all you need is a DSL connection and hacker tradecraft, and you are IN.
I mean let’s face it, Hackers ARE a threat on many fronts; not only can they can steal your money and your identity, they can also threaten your NATIONAL SECURITY by hacking into critical infra-structure like nuclear power plants, water plants or hospital records. It was recently discovered that Russian hackers had planted malware into a US Nuclear Power Plant Data base; they also hacked Sony and the White House Non-Classified data base (so they are telling us). I mean these guys are into EVERYTHING and ANYTHING.
But, as the bad guy leader Hans said in the 80’s action Hit “Die Hard”...”Who said we were terrorist? We are thieves!” the base instinct in most criminals, cyber or analog, is greed, and to be honest, it is this trait that makes these types of hackers a tad easier to predict and understand than the other 2 types. I mean the ideological types are typically just thieves masquerading as political activist anyways; but the hardest to understand are those purely MALICIOUS assholes that do it just to ruin your day (and your computer typically). And the REALLY bad part (and the one that stings the most for me at least) is that they typically wind up being some 13-year-old pimped faced kid in their parent’s basement laughing their ass of while at the same time playing World of Warcraft or some other escapist video game. Ughhh..can you feel the utter contempt??
But these hackers, being as forward-thinking as they are daring, decided to not just be satisfied with draining bank accounts to satisfy their greed, no, they had to step it up a notch and enter the realm of DATA RANSOM using you guessed it, RANSOMWARE. Although there has been many reported cases, the latest trend seems to be to strike Police Departments. Read about the latest incident HERE.
When you look at this crime from a broad perspective, you really do see the genius in it. I mean, think about just your average suzy homemaker..she probably has at a minimum, 75 to 100% of her household financial information, not to mention a large portion of her families private information, stored on the HDD of her home computer. Now expand that same principle to critical infrastructure like a city or state police department, or maybe a State Health Department, and you get the picture (and the possibility for mayhem) these kind of people create.
It is interesting to note that in cyber-warfare, just like in standard warfare, for every move, their is a counter-move, and with that counter-move, a chance to again, for an enterprising individual to make BIG money (legally this time). Companies have now sprung up that offer to store your critical data OFF-SITE on a Secure cloud based server for a nominal fee. Companies like Carbonite and Iron Mountain have made solid reputations for themselves in this field.
So where does this leave the CO? Well first and foremost, back up ALL your critical data! and if you have anything you don’t want stolen, store it Off-site! And, like anything else in the digital age, Knowledge is Power. Learn everything you can about Malware and Ransomware. Understand the depth of this kind of threat, not only to local and state agencies, but also Government agencies, where critical national security information could be stolen and held for ransom. It should also be noted that this type of cyber-crime is an INTEGRAL branch of Fourth Generation Warfare for both State actors and Non-State Actors (terrorist groups like ISIS) to finance their operations. Read what the folks at MalwareBytes had to say about Cryptolocker Ransomware HERE. Sophos also published a very informative piece HERE.
Stay Alert, Stay Informed, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!