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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."
Lenovo is facing tremendous backlash after the company confirmed it pre-installed adware on consumer products, and now more people want to learn about Superfish.
"The Superfish software does not present a security risk," said Adi Pinhas, co-founder and CEO of Superfish, in a statement to the San Jose Mercury News. "In no way does Superfish store personal data or share such data with anyone. In this case, it appears the third-party add-on introduced a potential vulnerability that we did not know about."
However, the company is maintaining its innocence in the matter, instead directing blame towards Komodia. Media publications were quick to point out that Superfish leads users to be assaulted by pop-ups and intrusive ads on websites they visit, trying to entice them to purchase from e-tailers.
It took several high-profile data breaches before the United States publicly discussed the need for improved cybersecurity protocols. Democrats and Republicans agree that something must be done, but security experts hope politics don't get in the way of necessary change.
However, cybersecurity efforts could receive bipartisan support from the Obama Administration and the Republican-led Congress - and politics hopefully won't get in the way.
"In order to improve cybersecurity, it is critical to facilitate the sharing of cyberattack information," said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc), in the GOP weekly address. "By sharing threat signatures, vulnerabilities and other indicators of network compromise, within and between the private sector and government, many cyberattacks can be prevented."
There were 1,500 global data breaches in 2014, with the number rising almost 50 percent year-over-year, according to the Gemalto Breach Level Index (BLI) report. Of the 1 billion total compromised records, almost 800 million of them belong to US companies - a frightening figure that cybersecurity experts believe will rise.
Companies remain unsure how to address these sometimes sophisticated cyberattacks, while consumers are frustrated that their personal information is seemingly up for grabs. Banks and credit card companies are becoming more proactive in identifying - and informing customers - of fraud, but it can still be a chaotic process.
"Not only are data breach numbers rising, but the breaches are becoming more severe," said Jason Hart, VP of cloud services, identity and data protection at Gemalto. "Identity theft could lead to the opening of new fraudulent credit accounts, creating false identities for criminal enterprises, or a host of other serious crimes. As data breaches become more personal, we're starting to see that the universe of risk exposure for the average person is expanding."
Millions of Anthem customers are at risk from the Anthem data breach, including tens of millions of children impacted from the data breach. Personal information ranging from names, date of brith, Social Security numbers and health care ID numbers were stolen, and some children could be at risk for decades, according to cybersecurity experts.
Information on children is tied to their parents, so attacks against adult account holders are expected to accelerate in the future as well. However, personal information of children is especially lucrative to criminals, as the data hasn't been tied to a credit file - so the government and credit reporting agencies aren't expecting fraud-related activities.
"Every terrible outcome that can occur as the result of an identity theft will happen to the children who were on that database," said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDentityTheft911, in a statement published by NBC News. "Criminals will use those stolen Social Security numbers to open accounts, get medical treatment, commit tax fraud, you name it."
The National Security Agency (NSA) believes North Korea is behind the Sony Pictures attack because of software used to breach the company. SPE was targeted in November by a group calling itself the "Guardians of Peace," with emails, employee personal information, movies, and other data stolen - and posted online.
"We ultimately ended up generating the signatures to recognize the activity used against Sony," said NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers, in a statement during a security conference in Canada. "From the time the malware left North Korea to the time it got to Sony's headquarters in California, it crossed four different commanders' lines or areas in the US construct."
Cyberattacks are causing confusion for government agents, unexpectedly spending more time investigating breaches against private sector companies - as attacks mount against critical infrastructure and government agencies.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommended Lenovo customers remove the Superfish adware from their computers and laptops. The Chinese electronics company installed the software on machines beginning in 2010 until January 2015, and Lenovo is no longer installing it on consumer products.
Despite Lenovo saying there were no cybersecurity issues, the National Cyber Awareness System said customers are vulnerable to SSL spoofing attacks. "Systems that came with the software already installed will continue to be vulnerable until corrective actions have been taken," the DHS said in a statement published by Reuters.
"We should have known about this sooner," said Brion Tingler, Lenovo spokesman, in a statement to Reuters. "And if we could go back, we never would have installed this software on our machines. But we can't, so we are dealing with this head on."