There are three broad categories of hackers:
Destructive (crash a website, destroy data)
Social Justice (Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks)
Those that want to make a Profit
One of the popular tactics used by those in category 3 is to hack into a company database (such as Target) and steal credit card information. The hacker can then take these to a “Cyber Pawn Shop” where the list would be published for sale on the ‘Deep Web’
These ‘Cyber Pawn Shops’ sites will sell credit cards in bulk, the price is normally reduced as they ‘age’ in time. Bottom line- it is better to to steal LOTS of credit card info, which is why a hack such as Target was possibly a large financial score.
Now we are seeing a dramatic increase in Ransom Attacks. The hacker goes into the computer system, takes control and encrypts operational data, demanding payment for a password.
On one level this approach makes better business sense:
Eliminate the middleman (Cyber Pawn Shops)
Hackers set their own price
In some of the recent attacks, systems were simply shut down. Earlier this year a hospital had its medical records encrypted- basically shutting down the hospital (Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center) until a ransom was paid. Hospitals, schools and cities are estimated to have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to date (source- CHRIS FRANCESCANI- NBC News).
Hackers are also targeting Police Departments nationwide.
A quote from the August 19, 2016 Wall Street Journal article by Robert McMillan:
“According to the U.S. Department of Justice, ransomware attacks have quadrupled this year from a year ago, averaging 4,000 a day. Typical ransomware payments range from $500 to $1,000, according to cyberrisk data firm Cyence Inc., but some hackers have demanded as much as $30,000.” Link
One aspect of this that is of great concern- in many cases these organizations have an IT department and security policy. They have purchased the typical ‘products’ such as firewalls, etc. So how can this be happening?
Today it is estimated that over 90% of the Ransom Hacks enter through a ‘phishing’ email, which an employee ‘clicks on’.
SO- based on the above, we can see two issues:
The phishing email made it through the system
Employees may not be properly trained regarding email security
If you’ve already transitioned to an IP based NG9-1-1 system you are safe- for the moment- as email is not directly connected.
But how about future hacking techniques or 9-1-1 text messages with hyperlinks?
APCO Project 43, NENA and the FCC Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA) are all discussing the issue of security as we transition to IP. We should stay plugged into their ongoing recommendations…