Avoiding Extortion Hacks that May Embarrass You or Your Company

Hackers are the epitome of persistent. Where many will run into obstacles and quit trying, hackers will stay up all night and neverendingly brute-force their way through firewalls and other barriers or will try to find ways to break rules or go around them. AHackers are like a cat, patient and willing to wait while plotting and devising new ways to hack your system for weeks and months at a time.

Moore’s Law does not apply for hacking breakthroughs, but if you are a follower of cybersecurity like I am, you will know that their methods get stronger and more complicated by every year. Last year we experienced several troubling trends and next year will most certainly bring more.

Here is one hack you can expect and that you need to take steps to protect yourself.


Extortion Hacks

If you didn’t hear, Sony was hacked at the end of 2014. It was predicted that hacker extortion attacks would increase in 2015. By extortion, we were referring not to standard ransomware attacks, whereby malware encrypts or otherwise locks access to a victim’s computer until the victim pays a ransom. The security firms meant extortion hacks where hackers extort companies and individuals by threatening to release sensitive and private company or customer information if they don’t pay a ransom or make good on some other expensive demand. With these attacks, even if a company or individual has backed up the data and doesn’t care that hackers have locked you out or locked your files, public release of the data could ruin you and your customers reputation, trade secrets etc….

It is not easy to track such attacks. If the victim acquiesces and pays the extortion money, nobody except the victim and the hacker may will know the extortion occurred. There are at least two extortion hacks on record for 2015:

1. Ashley Madison, a website designed to find people to cheat on your spouse with website was hacked, which took down a CEO and exposed millions of would-be cheaters to public ridicule.

2. An even worse extortion hack of InvestBank in the United Arab Emirates, resulted in the exposure of customer account information.

Extortion hacks play to the deepest fears of companies and executives—if not handled well, company secrets are exposed, customers file lawsuits, and executives lose their jobs.

So think about the data you keep on your computer. It is wise to have a data cleansing procedure to erase data that is no longer important. It also would behoove you to have a strategy in place to use different email accounts, aliases, and prepaid credit cards for signing up for web services that might come back to embarrass you later if your account data were to be leaked.

South City Computer offers computer consulting and business IT services to assist you in evaluating and mitigating your risk of such attacks and hacks.

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