Breaking news story – June 27, 2017 – Much of the world hit by another massive ransomware attack.

According to the old saying, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”  Reports are rapidly surfacing of another massive ransomware attack involving, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, France, India and the UK similar to the attack of only a few weeks ago that used the WannaCry malware.  The new malware, which appears to be a variation of the Petya malware is being called GoldenEye and it is demanding bitcoin ransoms from banks, government agencies and companies in the attacked countries.  The malware appears to exploit the same Microsoft Windows Operating System flaw called EternalBlue which was made public by hackers of the National Security Agency.

This is a problem that should not have happened for many reasons.  The particular Microsoft vulnerability that this ransomware exploits has been patched, but some companies, government agencies and individuals had not yet installed the patches when they had become available recently.  In addition, many of the affected computers were using outdated Windows operating systems, such as Windows XP which are no longer regularly updated with new security patches.  These older unsupported systems should not be used by anyone.  Microsoft has taken the unprecedented step of providing security patches for these unsupported systems now in addition to its already issued security updates for presently supported Microsoft programs.  Here is a link to an important memo from Microsoft with links to free security updates if you are still using one of those older operating systems.

Customer Guidance for WannaCrypt attacks

TIPS

This ransomware attack was primarily launched using phishing emails to lure unsuspecting people into clicking on links or downloading attachments tainted with the GoldenEye ransomware.  As I am constantly reminding you, never click on links or download attachments until you have confirmed that they are legitimate.

You also should update all of your electronic devices with the latest security updates and patches as soon as they become available, preferably automatically.

As for protecting yourself specifically from ransomware, you should back up all of your data in at least two different platforms, such as in the Cloud and on a portable hard drive. Companies and agencies which can afford to do this, should also use Whitelisting software which prevents the installation of any unauthorized computer software programs.

I will update you as further developments occur.

Scam of the day – June 5, 2017 – Hackers extort cosmetic surgery clinic

As I have warned people for years, your data is only as safe as the security at the places  with the weakest security holding your data.  Many times we have seen private information stolen and publicly released, as in the case of stolen nude photos, used for extortion purposes or sold to others on the Dark Web.

Cybercriminals recently hacked into the Grozio Chirurgija cosmetic surgery clinic in Lithuania and release 25,000 private photographs including nude photographs along with other personal information of patients of the clinic from more than sixty countries around the world. The hackers, who call themselves the “Tsar Team” contacted the clinic itself and individuals whose data had been stolen demanding bitcoin ransoms.  The clinic has refused to pay a ransom.

TIPS

In addition to doing the things we are constantly reminding people to do to protect themselves from data breaches, including, but not limited to the use of dual factor authentication, encryption and constantly updating security software, we should all be asking any company or entity that holds our personal information about what steps they are taking to protect that data and if their answers are not satisfactory, you should refrain from dealing with them.

Scam of the day – February 4, 2017 – Hotel suffers ransomware attack

Ransomware is  a type of malware that gets unwittingly downloaded on to a company’s, institution’s, government agency’s or individual person’s computer, which when downloaded encrypts the data of the victim.  The victim is then told to either pay a ransom, generally in bitcoins within a short period of time, or the hacker will destroy the data.

In a new twist on the ransomware story, the computer system of the Seehotel Jaegerwirt hotel in Austria became infected with ransomware that controlled the electronic key system for the hotel which creates the cards used as keys for each hotel room preventing the hotel from issuing new keys.  Faced with an inability of their newly  arrived guests to access their rooms, the hotel quickly acquiesced to the demands of the hackers and paid a bitcoin ransom of approximately $1,600 to the hackers who then gave them back control over their systems.  Interestingly, a spokesman for the hotel said that when the hotel rooms are refurbished in the future, the hotel intends to revert back to old-style door locks and actual keys in order to avoid problems such as this in the future.

Ransomware has become one of the most common and effective cybercrimes in the last year, successfully targeting individuals and a wide range of companies including law firms, accounting firms and even police departments. According to the United States Justice Department, ransomware attacks quadrupled last year to more than 4,000 per day.  As big a problem as ransomware was last year, I predict it will be much worse in 2017.

TIPS

The key to not becoming a victim of a ransomware attack is to prevent it in the first place.  Generally, the malware is installed unwittingly by victims when they are lured through phishing and spear phishing emails to click on links infected with the malware.  Never click on links in emails or text messages regardless of how legitimate they may appear until you have verified that it is legitimate.  You should also install anti-phishing software.

It is also important to not only have anti-malware software installed on all of your electronic devices, but to make sure that you update the security software with the latest security patches and updates.  Many victims of ransomware have fallen victim to strains of ransomware for which there are already security software available to thwart it.   Finally, always back up your computer’s data daily, preferably in two different ways in order to protect your data in the event you do become a victim of ransomware.

Scam of the day – January 22, 2017 – College falls victim of ransomware

Ransomware, as regular readers of Scamicide know, is  a type of malware that gets unwittingly downloaded on to a company’s, institution’s, government agency or individual person’s computer, which when downloaded encrypts the data of the victim.  The victim is then told to either pay a ransom, generally in bitcoins within a short period of time, or the hacker will destroy the data.

The latest public victim of ransomware is the Los Angeles Valley Community College District which recently paid a $28,000 bitcoin ransom after ransomware locked the campus’ computer network along with its email and voicemail systems.  After paying the ransom, the code was delivered to the school enabling them to regain their files and control over their email and voicemail systems.

Ransomware has become one of the most common and effective cybercrimes in the last year, successfully targeting individuals and a wide range of companies including law firms, accounting firms and even police departments. As big a problem as ransomware was last year, I predict it will be much worse in 2017.

TIPS

The key to not becoming a victim of a ransomware attack is to prevent it in the first place.  Generally, the malware is installed unwittingly by victims when they are lured through phishing and spear phishing emails to click on links infected with the malware.  Never click on links in emails or text messages regardless of how legitimate they may appear until you have verified that it is legitimate.  You should also install anti-phishing software.

It is also important to not only have anti-malware software installed on all of your electronic devices, but to make sure that you update the security software with the latest security patches and updates.  Many victims of ransomware have fallen victim to strains of ransomware for which there are already security software available to thwart it.   Finally, always back up your computer’s data daily, preferably in two different ways in order to protect your data in the event you do become a victim of ransomware.

Scam of the day – November 30, 2016 – San Francisco commuter rail system hacked

Late on November 25th, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates the municipal rail system in San Francisco, referred to as “Muni” was hacked when an SFMTA employee unwittingly clicked on a link in a phishing email and downloaded ransomware that locked and encrypted all of the SFMTA computer systems.  The hacker, who is thought to be Iranian, demanded a ransom of 100 bitcoins which is approximately $73,000 or he would destroy the data.  The SFMTA is refusing to pay the ransom and has indicated that it has backed up the encrypted data which, it says will be restored shortly.

Meanwhile, according to security research Brian Krebs, a white hat hacker hacked into the email of the original hacker and managed to take over the original extortionist’s email account by answering the extortionists security question.  The email account provided evidence that the hacker had been active in installing ransomware and obtaining ransom payments from numerous companies.

TIPS

There are a number of lessons for all of us as individuals to learn from this incident.  First and foremost is to install and maintain good security software including software that will help defend you against phishing emails.  However, no security software is totally effective against phishing emails, so you never click on links in any email unless you have absolutely confirmed that the email is legitimate.  Second, you should back up all of your data either in the cloud or on a portable USB hard drive to protect yourself from the danger of ransomware. Finally, in regard to security questions, which when answered give someone the ability to change your password, you should use a nonsensical answer to the question so it cannot be guessed or obtained through research about you.  For instance, if the question is what is your mother’s maiden name, you might make the answer “firetruck.”  You will remember it because it is so silly, but no one will be able to guess it by going through online data bases or social media.

Scam of the day – June 22, 2016 – Virtual currency hacked

Digital funds, sometimes known as cybercurrencies, the most famous of which is the Bitcoin, have been fascinating people in recent years.  These cybercurrencies are presently used for both legitimate and criminal enterprises and bring speed and privacy to financial dealings.  Their lack of governmental regulation provides opportunities both to innovators and, unfortunately to hackers, such as those who hacked Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange which lost almost a half a billion dollars worth of Bitcoins in 2014.  Now more than fifty million dollars worth of the digital currency Ether was stolen from a project known as the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) which was acting like a venture capital fund from which Ether funds would be invested in projects chosen by people contributing to the project.    The hackers used a technique known as a “recursive call vulnerability” to steal the funds.  Fortunately, however, it appears that the stolen funds have been frozen and should be able to be recovered although it appears that this may be the end of DAO as an operation.

TIPS

As worldwide banks continue to struggle with security in a world where banking is done electronically and funds can be stolen by way of computer attacks done through a combination of spear phishing and sophisticated malware, many banks have been looking to the underlying blockchain technology used by Bitcoin, Ether and other cybercurrencies.  However, with the vulnerabilities of blockchain being exposed in hackings such as that of DAO, the search goes on for more secure ways to do online financial transactions, particularly banking.  The present banking system is extremely vulnerable and you can expect there to be many more cyber bank robberies such as occurred most recently at the Central Bank of Bangladesh, not just in third world countries, but in other countries with even more established  and seemingly secure banking systems in the near future.

Scam of the day – May 16, 2016 – Phony Lizard Squad DDOS attack threat

Lizard Squad is the name of a group of hackers that, in the past, have done Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against high profile companies, such as their Christmas  2014 attack against the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live gaming networks temporarily shutting them down.  A DDoS attack occurs when the hacker is able to mobilize a network of computers often referred to as a botnet to flood a particular website or network with so many communications at the same time that the website or network is unable to handle the high volume and it gets shut down.

Recently a number of businesses in the United Kingdom have been receiving threatening emails purportedly from Lizard Squad threatening a DDosattack unless they pay a five bitcoin ransom.  Now emails are being sent to ordinary citizens around the world threatening a DDoS attack unless a bitcoin ransom is paid.  Here is a copy of such an email that is presently being circulated.  DO NOT CLICK ON ANY OF THE LINKS.

“ATTENTION! FORWARD THIS MAIL TO WHOEVER IS IMPORTANT IN YOUR COMPANY AND CAN MAKE DECISION!

We are Lizard Squad DDoS.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lizard_Squad 

Most importantly, we have launched largest DDoS in Swiss history and one of the largest DDoS attacks ever. Search for “ProtonMall DDoS”  All your servers will be DDoS-ed starting Monday May (30) if you don’t pay protection fee – exactly 20.8 Bitcoins @

1JquKeBNa91AQnLJSshcweeRMdKbUtT89q

If you don’t pay by Monday, attack will start, yours service going down permanently price to stop will increase to 40 BTC and will go up 20 BTC for every day of attack.  This is not a joke.  Our attacks are extremely powerful – peak over 1 Tbps per second.  Do not reply, we will not read. Pay and we will know it’s you. AND YOU WILL NEVER AGAIN HEAR FROM US!  Bitcoin is anonymous; nobody will ever know you cooperated only us from your bitcoin link.  How do I get Bitcoins?  You can easily buy bitcoins via several websites or even offline from a  Bitcoin-ATM. We suggest you to start with localbitcoins.com or do a google search”

TIPS

There are many things that companies can do to protect themselves from DDoS attacks, however, regular people really have nothing to fear from DDoS attacks and they are never used against ordinary people so if you get this threatening email or a similar one, you can merely ignore it.  In truth the threat is just meant to scare people who are in no danger of a DDoS attack to paying a bitcoin ransom.

Scam of the day – November 18, 2014 – Bitcoin Ponzi scheme

Bitcoins are the increasingly popular digital currency that is privately issued and not supported by any government in the world.  It is, however, used by many people throughout the world.  Recently, Trendon Shavers was arrested in Texas and charged with securities and wire fraud in relation to his offer of 7% weekly interest on bitcoins deposited with his Bitcoin Savings and Trust Company.  This promise of an annual percentage interest of 3,641% managed to lure investors to turn over to him 740,000 bitcoins valued at 4.5 million dollars.  Shavers advertised his scheme on the internet bulletin board “Bitcoin Forum” and other online discussion groups.  He claimed that using his market-arbitrage strategy that included lending and trading bitcoins on online exchanges.  His complex and non-understandable strategy mirrors the original Ponzi schemer, Charles Ponzi who used a similar scheme involving international stamps.  As with Ponzi, Shavers appeared to be legitimate by paying profits to early investors.  However, as with Ponzi himself, there were not profits and the early investors were paid with the funds being contributed by newer investors to make the phony investment scheme appear legitimate.  Shavers, like Ponzi was extremely persuasive and according to prosecutors, at the height of his scam, he personally controlled 7% of the world’s bitcoins.

TIPS

Due to the fact that bitcoins are totally unregulated by any government, they are a questionable investment.  Add to that fact, their digital character and its susceptibility to hackers and fraud and you have a dangerous investment at best.  Shavers is just the latest in a long line of Ponzi schemers who make promises that are too good to be true backed up by an incomprehensible formula for investment success. You should always remember the prime rule of investing which is to never invest in anything or any investment strategy that you do not totally understand.