The spookiest time of the year conjures images of pumpkin-head horsemen, ghostly ghouls and the most hellish of Halloween party costumes, but should we be more scared of the horrors that lie in wait in our technology.
2001: A Space Odyssey taught us to fear robotic voices and blinking red lights with Hal 9000, iRobot enlightened us on the dangers of machine intelligence rising up against us, but we are yet to discover the real threat that hackers pose to our safety.
Our fear is about to be transferred from hockey-masks and chainsaws to keyboards and malware; Hackoween instead of Halloween, if you will.
With this in mind, we take a look at some of the most terrifying hacker horror stories from Keeper Security.
Hacker horror story #1 – The call is coming from inside the house!
The 2017 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, sponsored by Keeper Security found that the greatest single threat to a business was their own employees with 54 per cent of IT professionals pointing the finger at negligent employees as the main cause of a cybersecurity breach. The same idea can be applied to your own family, considering hackers are constantly trying to trick you and your loved ones into clicking malicious links via phishing scams.
Have you ever talked to your spouse and kids about safe online practices? How to identify an email scam? Did you know that children are 35 times more likelly to be a victim of identity theft than an adult? Does your family utilise a password manager to create and store unique, high strength passwords for every login? It’s time to pull out the pumpkin pie and have a serious family conversation about cyber safety around the kitchen table.
Hacker horror story #2 – “I can basically pretend to be you. Right now, I am you.”
Identity theft is a real thing in the digital world and becoming an increasingly popular way for hackers to make money. With the alarming amount of data breaches over the past few years, such as the recent Equifax data breach where cyberthieves reportedly stole the personally identifiable information (PII) of more than 143 million Americans, hackers are cashing in by selling your information over on the dark web where buyers are applying for lines of credit and threatening to lock citizens out of their accounts unless they pay up.
Have you checked to see if your email address and password have been compromised? Experts recommend freezing your credit and sign up to receive notification if any applications for credit have been taken out in your name.
Hacker horror story #3 – You are trapped with nowhere to go
In May of 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack hit more than one million computers worldwide encrypting vital files on the machines it infected and made them inoperable until the victims agreed to pay a ransom. The attack knocked out operations at hospitals, major corporations, law firms, medical devices and even infected traffic cameras on stop lights. This year, more than 51 per cent of small and mid-sized businesses reported experiencing a ransomware within the past 12 months. Even more frightening for consumers is that 58 per cent of ransomware attacks targeted them.
Ransomware is often transmitted by email or web pop-ups. Cautious online behavior can help prevent the malware from infecting you. Experts recommend you update your software, install anti-virus software, be wary of suspicious emails and pop-ups, and to create backups of your data.
Hacker horror story #4 – The monster that lurks and never seems to die
Ransomware is one type of malware that infects your computer. Most malware stays hidden, lurking in the background, to spy on you and collect vital data.
It is important to first detect and identify your stalker. Have you experienced unusual behavior in your system, such as slowdowns, crashing, or repeated error messages? Do you have an increasing number of pop-up ads on your screen? How about any new toolbars or icons you don’t remember installing? These are all good signs that you have been compromised.
If you think your computer has been infected with malware stop using the computer for shopping, banking or any other uses that involve passwords and other PII. Verify that your security software is running and is current. In the case of Halloween, it came in the form of Dr. Samuel Loomis played by the incomparable, Donald Pleasence. In your case, it should probably be an Information Technology (IT) professional.
Hacker horror story #5 – Ghosts in the machine
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded into everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Some examples include Nest thermostats, connected toys, security systems, refrigerators and even coffeemakers. By 2020, technology analyst firm, Gartner, predicts there will be more than 20 billion IoT devices.
The proliferation of IoT will bring convenience to many people’s lives but the interconnectivity comes at a price. Hackers now have several ways to invade your home or business through your tech devices. And even more frightening, as technology takes over the toy world a growing target for hackers now, is children.