In May 2017, more than 230,000 computers around the world were taken hostage by the WannaCry malware worm. Known as ransomware, the unknown developers surreptitiously gained control of computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, encrypted the users’ data, and demanded a payment of $300 in untraceable bitcoins to unlock the system and access information.
Cyber-attacks occur across borders and range from simple email “phishing” efforts to sophisticated software programs that quickly expand the attacks and hide the identity of the perpetrators. Motives of cyber criminals range from vanity (proving one’s technical expertise) to illegal profit. Some attacks are politically motivated while others are rarely publicized, state-sponsored sabotage. The attacks affect individuals, businesses, and governments.
According to a report by the Ponemon Institute, a successful hacker earns $14,711 for each attack and has 8.26 successful attacks per year. Sophisticated hacking tools are readily available on the Internet, especially the Dark Web. The criminals and the curious are stepping up their efforts to invade your privacy and steal your money. What actions can you take to harden the target and protect your assets?
What actions can you take to harden the target and protect your assets?
Understand the Enemy
Malicious software can wreak havoc on your computer or operate covertly in the background. Malware (The Creeper Worm) was first detected on the ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet, in the early 1970s. Since that time, spurred by the growth of personal computers and connected communication networks, many different types of malware have appeared, including:
Trojans: The most common malware is based on the Greek strategy to invade Troy: the Trojan Horse. In this case, users are tricked into allowing an outsider unlimited access to their computers by clicking on an unsafe Internet link, opening an email attachment, or completing a form. By themselves, Trojans are delivery vehicles, providing a “backdoor” into a computer or network. As a consequence, they open the door for malicious software to steal data, compromise operating systems, or spy on users. Trojans do not replicate themselves and spread to other devices like a virus or a worm.
Viruses: Just as a biological virus is transmitted to unsuspecting hosts, a computer virus replicates itself and infects new computers, then modifies operating programs to malfunction. Some have called viruses “diseases of machinery,” a term first coined in the 1972 futuristic film “Westworld.” One of the early viruses – Love Letter – delivered by an email with the subject line “I Love You” and an attachment “L0VE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT” – attacked 55 million computers worldwide and caused an estimated $10 billion in damage, according to Wired magazine.
Read more . . .