Cybercrime Risk High on Black Friday
Last month was Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the focus was on protecting our systems and the valuable data stored in them. Cyber criminals did not take the month off; rather, they continued to perpetrate spectacular data breaches, striking government agencies, corporations, cities and private citizens with alarming regularity.
Just this month Network World reported two occurrences of the use of ransomware by cyber criminals. The mayor of Detroit admitted that the city's database was held ransom, with the perpretators demanding 2,000 bitcoins or $800,000.00. The city administration had to make a tough choice. They determined that the city could do without the information contained in the database and decided not to give into extortion. But what if that data had been needed? What options would they have had then?
In Tennessee, a sheriff's office did pay to get back autopsy reports, witness statements and crime scene photographs when hit with a form of ransomware called CryptoWall. In this case, the data was deemed too important to lose. As a result, the cyber criminals got the monetary benefit they hoped for.
The well-known shopping days called Black Friday and Cyber Monday are rapidly approaching. Many companies make as much as one quarter of their annual revenue during the last three months of the year, according to Symantec. Cyber criminals have leverage during these critical shopping days and these businesses are quite concerned. Companies have spent millions to defend themselves and rapidly recover from such attacks.
Private citizens can also take steps to avoid falling victim to such an attack. Make sure your anti-virus software (AV) software is up to date, use only strong passwords and vary them across websites, make sure you are using your browser in secure mode only, and back up your data regularly and store in a safe place (for example on a cloud drive). If you fall victim to ransomware attacks and other cybercrimes such as identity theft you should immediately contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is co-sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).
FBI Page for holiday scams warnings page: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams.
Remember your personal data or computer should be considered your personal critical infrastructure and should be guarded accordingly. Next month I will write about the so called “Snowden Effect” and how it has affected how the government operates and our personal security.