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Companies nervous about their cybersecurity defenses are relying on white hat hackers to test systems and help identify security flaws. Offering a bounty allows additional skilled users outside of a company's software and IT team to help track down anything that may have unknowingly fallen through the cracks.
"We're curious, we want to test our skills, we want to help these companies," said Mike Santillana, white hat hacker for Bugcrowd, in a statement published by CBS News. "I've found several bugs where you can completely compromise another user's account."
Additional companies are paying security experts and programmers as part of increasingly lucrative bug bounty programs. These hackers enjoy the monetary incentive and the challenge of identifying security flaws that could pose problems for companies and their customers.
Medical identity theft increased 22 percent in 2014, causing 2.4 million adults in the United States to suffer from a complicated and costly mess, according to The Ponemon Institute. To make matters worse, it takes three months on average before someone realizes they've been victimized, with 30 percent of victims still unaware.
Just 10 percent of victims said they ended up with "completely satisfactory" resolution of a medical identity theft-related issue - 65 percent of victims report they were forced to pay, a whopping average of $13,453.
Since criminals have access to names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and account ID numbers, they are able to create fake identities. Sometimes, this leads to hospital and emergency room visits, pharmacy prescriptions, and other activities that rack up fraudulent charges.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden would have liked to come forward sooner regarding NSA surveillance, but had to wait until the appropriate time.
"I would have come forward sooner... [but] these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers," Snowden said during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session. "This is something we see in almost every sector of government, not just in the national security space, but it's very important. Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back."
Snowden knowingly sacrificed himself to help reveal NSA surveillance and spying activities, which has opened an international debate. In addition, Apple, Google and other companies are modifying their behaviors, including adding encryption and other technologies, to help keep user data more secure from outside snooping.
The National Security Agency (NSA) is under fire for claims it used sophisticated spyware loaded on hard drives for surveillance, with the head of the agency saying his agency complies with national law.
"Clearly I'm not going to get into the specifics of allegations," said US Navy Admiral Michael Rogers, refusing to speak out regarding NSA spyware accusations, while at the Washington forum. "But the point I would make is, we fully comply with the law."
The latest controversy stems from a Kaspersky Lab report that says the NSA embedded spyware on Western Digital, Toshiba and Seagate hard drives, giving them the ability to eavesdrop on users.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattacks have plagued consumers and businesses for quite some time, but the rising number of DDoS attacks available as a paid service is troubling. Clients can pay from $2 up to $5 per hour to launch DDoS attacks, or pay a subscription for prices as low as $800 per month.
The Lizard Squad hacker group helped draw increased scrutiny to the underground cybercriminal activity - demonstrating its LizardStresser DDoS service in successful attacks against the Sony PlayStation Network and Microsoft Xbox Live. Meanwhile, the Gwapo DDoS service has been publicly advertised via social media and YouTube posted videos, with attacks starting at $2 per hour.
"Since their inception in 2010, DDoS-for-hire capabilities have advanced in success, services and popularity, but what's most unnerving is booters have been remarkably skilled at working under the radar," according to the "Distributed Denial of Service Trends" report from Verisign. "Given the ready availability o DDoS-as-a-service offerings and the increasing affordability of such services, organizations of all sizes and industries are at a greater risk than ever of falling victim to a DDoS attack that can cripple network availability and productivity."
Tech executives aren't impressed by President Obama's current efforts to streamline cybersecurity, with a strong lack of trust after increased knowledge of government surveillance operations. It's a fragile relationship that must be improved, especially if Obama is serious about Silicon Valley companies sharing threat data with the US government.
"I think we missed an opportunity," said Jason Healey, former director of cyber infrastructure protection for the White House, in a statement published by The Hill. "Real leaders focus on privacy and they don't compromise on that."
There will need to be an open discussion from the Obama Administration regarding encryption, privacy, and other matters - but trying to boost cybersecurity efforts appears to be a more pressing matter.
Ransomware cyberattacks are on the rise, and businesses must be ready to address the threat head on, with law enforcement constantly one step behind.
The FBI previously issued a warning regarding ransomware attacks, especially as cybercriminals tweak their malware code. Similar to statements issued by cybersecurity experts, the FBI says users should be extremely careful when opening email attachments - the most popular infection method to compromise business users.
The authors of the CryptoLocker ransomware were able to quickly generate at least $3 million in revenue from ransomware attacks, collecting hundreds of dollars in ransom at a time. Cybercriminals are opportunistic and will continue to rely on ransomware attacks as long as they easily find victims installing the malware on PCs and laptops.
The Midlothian Police Department paid $500 after being compromised with the Cryptoware ransomware, encrypting files on one computer. A spear-phishing email likely is the culprit behind the Cryptoware infection, with Midlothian Police Chief Harold Kaufman confirming a cybersecurity incident.
The police department spent a total of $606 to rid itself of the infection, following the addition of bank fees and subsequent surcharges.
Cybersecurity experts recommend business users routinely back up their data - and that is often left to IT administrators - with urgent need to train employees so they can spot social engineering attempts.
Hunter Moore, 28, the founder of revenge porn website IsAnyoneUp.com, has pleaded guilty and faces years in prison. Moore pleaded guilty to identity theft, unauthorized access to a computer, and aiding and abetting unauthorized access of a computer. Unlike other revenge porn website operators, Moore paid a hacker to access email accounts looking for photos to steal.
Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of two to five years, and Moore should be sentenced in a few months. Moore was once called "the most hated man on the Internet" for creating IsAnyoneUp.com, which served as one of the most popular revenge porn websites.
The infamous revenge porn website generated up to $10,000 per month in advertising revenue - and featured nude images and videos of ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. The person's full name, city of residence, social media profile and profession were prominently listed on the website.
Company executives have observed Target, JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, Anthem, and other major companies suffer devastating data breaches - and understand they need stronger cybersecurity protocols - but actually deploying new methods has been rather slow.
Seventy eight percent of company tech executives have not been briefed regarding internal security strategies within the past 12 months, according to a Raytheon survey. In addition, 75 percent said cybersecurity is a necessary cost, but only 25 percent of survey respondents said security is a strategic priority.
"The Target hack was very interesting," said Jack Harrington, VP of cybersecurity and special missions of Raytheon, in a statement published by the Christian Science Monitor. "It raised awareness across the entire retail industry certainly," but demand for chief information security officer (CISO) positions wasn't' a priority. "That tells you they felt they didn't even need that position. They just didn't feel at risk."