Cyber Security Threats to Look Out for in 2018 - Part 2

  1. Image with cybercrimes listed

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In the previous article, we discussed ransomware and the illicit use of AI to conduct physical-cyber attacks, as well as the consequences of what happens when you are subjected to these crimes. Now we will continue our discussion with some comparatively new types of cybersecurity threats that we will be faced with.

Cryptocurrency Fraud and Attacks

Virtual flow of bitcoins

If you ever watched the Star Trek series, you may remember the one where the crew went into a different dimension. A place where our world is still functioning, but not in the same manner we humans are familiar with.

Enter cryptocurrency - a financial system that is not of this earth, but lives in the worldly dimension of hyperspace. You might have heard the term - 'bitcoin' and is one type of cryptocurrency. This is different from doing a standard transaction in the mainstream Internet cloud, such as buying an item online. This transaction goes through a centralized process where government policies must be adhered to. With cryptocurrency, there is no centralized process and there is no government that oversees the transactions.

To obtain cryptocurrency, such as a bunch of bitcoins, a computer algorithm is run that is designed to match a mathematical sequence set forth in the cryptocurrency domain. This is called a cryptographic hash and this hashing process, called mining, requires loads of computer power. Using one PC is not good enough these days. In fact, a powerful computer using a GPU specifically designed for mining, might not be totally effective to hash a crypto block, but whoever does, receives some of this digital currency. This is how the virtual currency is controlled so that it is not a free 'money falling off the trees' scenario or better said 'virtual money given to you when you simply connect to a crypto block'. No you (actually your computer algorithm) has to work for it.

Handing over money to a computerWith that said, one might consider this to be an open field day for hackers, but this virtual currency is secured by encryption using private security keys. Bitcoins and their counterparts are gradually becoming an accepted currency the world over, but not without concern about what the criminal element is doing and will do. Once such example is ransomware attacks. The criminal requests the money in bitcoins, it is virtually impossible to track them.

Digital currency has become the rage in the second half of 2017, and it looks like the frenzy is not going to end any time soon, as more currencies are making their way into the market. Since the entirety of cryptocurrency exists in a virtual domain, its transactions will remain vulnerable to cyber crimes.

With more cryptocurrencies in the market, we are seeing a sophisticated trend of hackers finding ways to break into the digital transactions and stealing the currency. As the year ended, a large cryptocurrency hack occurred in South Korea (some countries outside of the US are more involved in cryptocurrencies) where hackers stole the information of around 30,000 people and inflicted losses of roughly $80 million with a bitcoin theft. Such attacks will pick up more pace this year and beyond.

Another cyber threat is looming. It is the hacking of multiple computing devices for the mining of cryptocurrencies. Mining helps in increasing the value of any cryptocurrency. It entails solving complex matrices which need an enormous amount of computing capacities. There is news that attackers have hacked thousands of smartphones and using them to mine cryptocurrencies.

We might see this trend growing with more devices getting hacked and served as slaved cryptocurrency miners. To protect your handheld devices from getting hacked, avoid using unsecured internet connections, particularly public Wi-Fi. We have discussed the perils of using public hotspots at great length in a separate article.

According to experts, sites, where a large number of computers are present under one roof without beefed up security measures (airports, hospitals, and other such public enterprises), will remain vulnerable to attacks for the illicit mining of cryptocurrencies.

Cyber Attacks for Rigging Elections

This heading might have looked very odd a few years ago. But now with all the brouhaha surrounding the Russians hacking and rigging of American elections through cyber means, it seems entirely possible. The voting process may one day be totally conducted on digital and electronic machines. Therefore, many countries are now wary of the sabotage instigated by a hacker to alter the election results.

On the one hand, technology has made voting very easy, but on the other, it possesses some unprecedented vulnerability. From digital voter rolls to the electronic platforms and software used for the gathering of data and processing of results, all are within reach of hackers. The companies rendering all these services are facing great pressure this year to make their systems foolproof in the face of cyber attacks.

The European Union is going to introduce a regulation for data protection. The step is being taken to make sure that election process can’t be disrupted by cyber attacks. We have to wait and see how these regulations will help in deterring such attacks.

Yellow tape crime scene

Data Breaches

Data breaches of large and critical types are becoming more prevalent. It would be imprudent to underestimate the prowess and reach of hackers, particularly after the cyber attack on Equifax.

Equifax is one the three major credit bureaus of the country owning financial and personal data of millions of citizens. According to the agency’s own account, the data breach might have compromised the data of more than 140 million of its customers. It’s also being said that the around 200,000 credit card and social security numbers got compromised in the breach. The agency had to incur a share drop of eight percent soon after the news broke out.

Such attacks show that cybercriminals are now more powerful than ever and they will continue to carry out such attacks involving big data breaches. According to experts, companies containing personal and confidential information of people, whether it’s banking details or browsing history, will remain favorite targets for hackers this year.

Regardless of the type and nature of the attacks, it looks very probable that cyber attacks will excel in their complexity and impact. It has also become very clear that online safety of individuals is becoming more and more dependent on the cyber defense of big companies and corporations.

Posted On January 29, 2018