Written by Laura-Lee Walker
“If you control the code, you control the world. This is the future that awaits us.”
—Marc Goodman, Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It
Who is today’s fraudster?
Your average hacker used to be a pimple-faced teenage nerd that got his kicks by reeking havoc from his parent’s basement. Fast-forward to today, your average hacker is 35-years-old, and instead of working alone, about 80 percent of hackers work as part of an organization or group of individuals.
This means, just like their white hat corporate counterparts, organized criminals can benefit from a wide-range of expertise and business best practices that enhance their bottom line.
For example, a company called Innovative Marketing Solutions looked liked any profitable business. They had sophisticated operations with a CEO, SEO, quality control, marketing, an HR Department, client helpline and customer relationship management system.
Unlike a reputable corporation, the company’s product was ‘malware protector software’ that could be downloaded for $49 and was rather convincing of the adverse consequences that would incur if the target customer didn’t download the software. In reality, the customers’ computers were never infected.
It was all a big scam and a very profitable one. The company made an impressive $500 million dollars ripping off their victims before being shutdown by the FBI and Interpol.
The motive has also changed. Instead of relieving boredom, exercising your technological prowess or having bragging rights, hackers of today are ‘crimeapreneurs’ with the goal of making money, lots of money.
Instead of people robbing banks, pick pocketing and peering at your PIN number at an ATM machine, people are hiring hackers and a wide-range of black markets criminals for hire to do their bidding. Sometimes a long group of hackers can affect hundreds of millions of people out of billions of dollars.
Who is vulnerable?
It used to be that mostly seniors, the young or others whom were oblivious of the red flags of fraud made up the vulnerable, but that has changed.
Everyone that’s connected to the Internet and/or smart-anything is vulnerable whether it’s through a smartphone, iCloud, iPad, desktop computer, camera, GPS device, car or refrigerator, we are all vulnerable and as technology progresses in the era of big data and the Internet of Things, we are only going to become increasingly vulnerable.
How can they hurt you?
There is no shortage of ways that criminals can exploit technological vulnerabilities:
-Trojans can steal your money and make it seem they did not by manipulating your banking details.
-Manipulate your medical records to change your medical condition and blood type or hack into your pace maker to murder you.
-Access real-time information and assign you a score to determine whether it’s desirable to abduct, blackmail, extort, pull your credit card data, or in the case of terrorism, kill you.
-Lure you into clicking on a malicious link posing as your banking institution to empty your bank account.
-Downloading fake antivirus software to launch Trojans that block and encrypt your operating system, hold your data handsome, and demand a sum of money to send you the encryption key.
What can you do?
Understand how your ‘smart’ devices and connectivity makes you vulnerable. Read the book “Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable and What to Do About It” by Marc Goodman.
In addition, take the following precautions:
- Automatically update your operating system.
- Understand the trade offs you make to privacy when using ‘free’ services online, such as email accounts and social media networks. Don’t over share online.
- Be careful what you click on both from your email and while navigating the Internet.
- Regularly backup data. Encrypt your data before uploading to the Cloud.
- Don’t accept USB drives from strangers.
- Cover the lens of your web cam when not in use.
- Only access your banking from private computers that you trust.
- Use your operating system’s firewall.
- Pay close attention to a service’s privacy settings and use two-step verification, where possible.
Take this free online course called Computer Security and Internet Safety Fundamentals by Jess Stratton to have a basic understanding of security for both Windows and Mac applications.
Make sure to report all instances of fraud. Fraud can be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501 or by using their Fraud Reporting System (FRS).
Laura-Lee is an open-source intelligence analyst at Kusic and Kusic Private Investigators. She specializes in litigation support, background checks, and online investigations.Crime, Fraud, Futurism, K&K Private Investigators, Kusic and Kusic Ltd., Privacy Issues, Technology