On May 7th, The Colonial Pipeline company faced a security breach after a ransomware attack which froze their pipeline operations throughout Eastern U.S and ended with the company paying the pirates $4.4 million in bitcoin in ransom.
Source: FT Montage, Bloomberg
While you and I are most likely no millionaires or heads of multinational corporations, hackers and ransomware pirates aren’t likely to spare anyone. In fact, security experts believe that cyber-attacks against both corporations and individuals are increasing in recent years, and many victims have no choice but to pay the ransom.
So, what are the ways that you can get hacked?
One of the common tactics used is through a method called social engineering-a method of manipulating people using psychological means to exploit their sensitive data. Examples of these tactics include sending messages through social media with malicious links or emailing such links to unsuspected individuals. Sometimes, many would click on these links themselves through websites offering free content or on pornography websites. This is especially relevant in Vietnam, where pirate websites offering free movies or films are popular among both teenagers and adults.
In short, cyberattacks often start with the victims unknowingly clicking on malicious links
What will happen?
Most likely, the malicious link will give hackers access to a computer and all its data. From then, the common tactic that many hackers will use is to demand a ransom in exchange for the data acquired. Another likely scenario involves threatening to expose photos or information which often forces people to give in to the demand.
What to do if you are a victim?
Quite counterintuitively, the FBI’s official guidance is to not pay a ransom in case of a cyberattack, citing that it is not guaranteed that you as the victim will get any data back, and the act can even encourage perpetrators and offer incentives to would-be ransomware pirates.
For cases involving a leak in credit card information, banks can often reverse the charges, but it gets more complicated with cryptocurrency as it is almost impossible to get back once it is stolen. As with always, the best course of action is to report the crime to police officials, which gives more visibility to law enforcement-hence potentially preventing future cyberattacks.
So, how can you, Internet users, prevent cyberattacks?
Simple practices such as being mindful of the links that you’re clicking on websites and emails are very useful in preventing cyberattacks. As a rule of thumb, avoid sketchy websites or emails that provide links offering questionable contents. Other forms of protection including regularly keeping your operating system up to date and avoid using old devices (which are usually no longer supported by the manufacturing companies), are also effective. If possible, installing antivirus programs will surely help in filtering out malicious software. Indeed, not every security solution is absolute, but a combination of these protective measures will be your best course of action against potential cyberattacks.
Based on CNN’s article written by Samantha Murphy Kelly. Compiled by Thinh Nguyen. For the original article, access the link: https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/14/tech/ransomware-attacks/index.html