We’ve known for some time that the long-haired, lowly, pot-smoking, havoc-reeking hacker, sitting alone in his mom’s basement, hacking for fun and fame is no more. He cut his hair and has now graduated into a full time professional criminal hacker, hacking for government secrets and financial gain.
His contacts are global, many from Russia and Eastern Europe, and they include brilliant teens, 20-somethings, all the way up to clinical psychologists who are organized, international cyber criminals.
We are in the middle of a cold cyber crime war.
Their sole motivation is money and information and they either find their way inside networks due to flaws in the applications, or they work on their victims psychologically and trick them into entering usernames and passwords, or clicking links.
According to a new Verizon report, a staggering 285 million records were compromised in 2008, which exceeds total losses for 2004-2007 combined. As many as 93% of the breaches were targeted hacks occurring at financial institutions.
Hackers made $10 million by hacking RBS Worldpay’s system, then loading up blank dummy cards and gift cards, and sending mules to use them at ATMs. The entire scheme took less than one day to pull off.
Many of these hacks occur due to flaws in the design of web applications. The criminals send out “sniffers,” which seek out those flaws. Once they are found, the attack begins. Malware is generally implanted on the network to extract usernames and passwords. Once the criminals have full access, they use the breached system as their own, storing the stolen data and eventually turning it into cash.
Meanwhile, criminal hackers have created approximately 1.6 million security threats, according to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report. 90% of these attacks were designed to steal personal information including names, addresses and credit card details. Almost every single American has had their data compromised in some way.
Unsuspecting computer users who do not update their PC’s basic security, including Windows updates, critical security patches or anti-virus definitions often become infected as part of a botnet. Botnets are used to execute many of the attacks on unprotected networks.
The same study shows computer users were hit by 349 billion spam and phishing messages. Many were tricked into giving up personal information. It is common sense not to plug data into an email that appears to be from your bank, asking to update your account. Attacks directed towards mobile phones are also rising. “Phexting” is when a text message phishes for personal data. Just hit delete.
Much of the data stolen is out of your hands. So invest in identity theft protection, and keep your McAfee Internet security software updated.