Author Archives: Stephen Green

Emerging Cyber Security Threats, 2021 and Beyond – Part 2

There is no denying that the world of cybercrime has changed the way businesses think about security. Not only do you need to consider physical security but also your digital security. Everything in your business is at risk if the business has an internet connection. Intellectual property, trade secrets, personal data, financial data are just a few of the things that hackers will try to steal.  This essay continues our discussion on Cyber Security threats, 2021 and beyond:

Ransomware – Ransomware is becoming a household name. Ransomware is a computer infection that encrypts the data on your computer and asks for money for the decryption keys. While ransomware is becoming much more of a mainstream cybercrime today, believe it or not, it has existed since 1989 when the first version was mailed out to the participants of a World Health Organization conference on a 5 ¼ inch disks and the victims had to mail the ransom to a Post Office Box in Panama.

The use of digital currencies like Bitcoin have replaced the old ways of collecting funds. Due to the anonymity of Bitcoin and other digital currencies,  tracking down perpetrators of ransomware is more difficult. While Bitcoin does have an indelible ledger of transactions where you can track the flow of the money, there are no names associated with the accounts in the ledger.

The newest versions of ransomware steal your files before locking them. We have seen a large number of attacks that have stolen critical data out of the businesses, schools or hospitals.

Ransomware has seen a 165% increase during 2020: the UK reports that Britons are seeing more than 2000 attacks per day. The makers of Emotet and Trickbot are rumored to have made over $325 million in ransom since the first version.

Denial of Service attacks – Political statements seem to be the main motivator for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and countries like Turkey have seen incidents increase to over 30,000 occurrences each day. The US has overtaken all other countries as the main target for attackers and cyber criminals have attacked news agencies, corporations and governments around the world in an effort to take their computer systems and websites offline.

A common misconception about DDoS attacks is that they only affect a business with a website which is inaccurate. A DDoS attack aimed at a business can shut down its outgoing internet access by flooding the connection with so much incoming traffic that nothing goes out. This means that all cloud services will be inaccessible and email will not be delivered,

Email phishing schemes – Phishing schemes are used to target individuals with online access to bank accounts, credit cards, etc. and they have become a major source of information and money for cyber criminals. The new term “whaling” has been coined for large attacks. In the US, we have seen emails appearing to come from a company CEO requesting wire transfers from the accounting departments to pay urgent invoices which have resulted in the money being remitted to fake vendors. Other attacks have targeted the Human Resources Department asking for information about employees. These attacks have led to leaks of social security numbers and other sensitive employee data. Mattel lost $3 million in a phishing scheme that appeared to be a legitimate invoice for goods that turned out to be fake. Luckily for Mattel, they were able to recover the funds with the assistance of the Chinese authorities. Most companies are not as fortunate.

Known Vulnerabilities – Most firewalls require a reboot following patching so most companies schedule quarterly, bi-annual, or annual updates. This regularity in scheduling leaves enterprises open to attack.

The Panama Papers leak, for example, has been attributed to outdated, unpatched software running customer portal and email servers.

The list of known vulnerabilities is growing each day and information about these vulnerabilities has become public knowledge.  Microsoft reported cyber criminals targeting so-called “zero-day vulnerabilities” impacting Microsoft Internet Explorer and HP’s 2019 Cyber Risk Report found that 44% of breaches in 2019 came from vulnerabilities that are two to four years old. This indicates that enterprises are not taking updating the hardware and software on a regular basis seriously – even the “big boys” are vulnerable.

Emerging Cyber Security Threats and Trends, 2021 and Beyond – Part 1

There is no denying that the world of cybercrime has changed the way businesses think about security. Not only do we need to consider physical security but also digital security. Everything in business is at risk if the business has an internet connection. Intellectual property, trade secrets, personal data and financial data are just a few of the things that hackers will try to steal from your business.

So let’s talk about cybercrime and the top cybercrime trends we have seen in 2020 – Part 1

Cybercrime – as-a-service – Cybercrime has gone mainstream and, like software, cloud, and infrastructure technologies, it is now being offered as a service. With the rise in computing power and the decrease in cost, cyber criminals have seized the chance to make money by offering their cybercrime skills to others who have the money to pay for their services with no technical experience required. Denial of service attacks can be launched for less than US $10 and email accounts on popular sites like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail cost around $130.

State sponsored cyber-attacks – Hacking is no longer performed by the stereotypical teenage hacker in a basement accessing your systems. State sponsored hacking is now performed by sophisticated organized groups using every tool available to steal valuable intellectual property & critical data as well as to damage or shut down core infrastructure.

Think of the Sony Pictures or Office of Personnel Management data breaches in the US for examples of how state sponsored hackers have stolen valuable or damaging information from companies. These hackers are targeting companies and information that can provide economic or political advantages.

Recently publicized cases in the US show that state-sponsored hackers from Iran accessed critical infrastructure systems at a dam in upper New York state. In late December, alleged Russian hackers took down the power grid in Western Ukraine. Hackers have turned the fantasies of Die Hard into reality by accessing the core infrastructure of nations with direct penetration attempts. The state sponsored hackers are trying to get control of everything from oil fields, power stations, water stations, and nuclear facilities.

Hackivism – One of the emerging cybercrime threats to the world is what is termed “hactivism” or politically motivated hacking to destroy reputation, steal data, or affect critical infrastructure. Hackers such as Anonymous use their skills to forward their own political agenda. This trend began to gain traction during the US elections where people from around the world enlisted hacking as a form of speech. Businesses must have protections in place that can address the threat of hacktivism. From defacing your website to bringing down your network with a denial of service, hacktivism must be defended against.

Next: Ransomware

Fraud in the Time of Corona -19

Fraud in the Time of Corona -19

During this time of uncertainty due to the Corona-19 virus, we all need to protect ourselves and our loved ones and friends from unscrupulous people.  These bad actors will take advantage of any situation in order to defraud those vulnerable or unaware.

International Consultants and Investigations, Inc. (ICI) recommends the following guidelines in order to avoid falling prey to scammers:

  1. Don’t give out a healthcare insurance number or Medicare number to anyone other than a trusted health care provider.
  2. Do not provide a social security number, bank account or checking account number over the phone to anyone, even if they claim to be from the Social Security Administration or your financial institutions. A follow-up call to the Agency or your bank can confirm if there is an issue to be addressed.
  3. The Census taker will not require any personal information such as an employee ID, Social Security number, etc.
  4. The IRS will not call to inform you that you are under threat of arrest unless you remit immediately by providing banking information to the caller. The IRS does not make these calls.
  5. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other health agencies will not call to ask for donations. Stick to charities you know and trust.
  6. Beware of any stranger or recent acquaintance that offers to take your money and go to the supermarket or drug store for you; your money and your new friend will not be back.
  7. If you don’t recognize a number on your caller ID don’t answer. If it’s a “real” call a voice mail will be left.  If you don’t have caller ID and you answer the phone to “dead space” hang up; chances are it’s a “robo” call.
  8. Work from home offers are often scams requiring the victim to “buy” materials necessary to earn money for representing the “firm”. Check any such offering of work-at-home home with your local Better Business Bureau or the police.
  9. No one from Nigeria or a Baltic country has millions of dollars they need you to help move to the United States. In all cases remember, if it sounds too good to be true it is probably fraud.

Scammers are friendly people.  In this time of social isolation a friendly voice on the phone is a scammer’s primary tool used to cheat you. Being aware is your best defense.