Cybercriminals are using two deceiving maneuvers — phishing and ransomware — more and more in order to dupe unsuspecting people into giving out their personal information.
Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive data (like credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, social security numbers) for nefarious reasons, while ransomware is a type of infected software that is designed to take over a computer system and then block access for the original authorized user until a fee is paid. The two strategies are sometimes combined.
As the internet becomes increasingly pervasive in today’s society, hackers are developing new and sophisticated techniques for hacking. (RELATED: Facebook Defect Gives Hackers Opportunities To Alter Messaging History [VIDEO])
The city of San Francisco’s transportation system was hacked around Thanksgiving through the use of malware. The perpetrator locked out authorized users by infecting the system with viruses and then demanded a ransom of $73,000 in the form of bitcoins, a virtual currency.
Travelers and transit riders were greeted with the message “You hacked,” displayed on ticket kiosks, according to TechCrunch. Riders were allowed to board the transportation services for free, and in a feat of retribution, the rogue hacker was believed to be hacked himself only days later.
In June, the University of Calgary was forced to pay 20,000 Canadian dollars (around $15,700) to hackers who infiltrated the college’s information technology systems. The cybercriminals successfully completed the ransomware attack by locking the school out of its own data and keeping critical files from school officials and staff. (RELATED: Internet Crashes Will Be Hard To Stop After Obama’s Internet Giveaway)
It was discovered in the past few months that cyber-criminals are using Twitter as part of a phishing scam by duping unsuspecting social media users into giving up their personal data.
Hackers pretend to be part of the bank’s customer service department by creating fake accounts, evoking genuineness, and then providing links which appear to be legitimate, but are in reality portals to malware or to phony pages requesting personal data.
“Phishing scams are a highly effective social engineering attack – everyone clicks links and it’s easy to impersonate a person or entity’s email or link,” Pace University Prof. Darren Hayes told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It plays on our emotions.”
And there are studies to back that up. One study conducted at a German university of 1,700 participants found that roughly half of people click on infected links from email addresses or Facebook accounts they are unfamiliar with even after knowing the risks. (RELATED: Everything Online Is Connected, Now There’s A Growing Need For Cyber Insurance)
“Cybersecurity is not terrible in the USA, but we always appear to be several steps behind the hackers,” Hayes said. “We should, however, be concerned about the brain-drain in government when government employees are leaving in droves to start up their own companies in cybersecurity. Additionally, enormous vulnerabilities exist in our critical infrastructure,” he concluded.
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