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Data kidnapping erupts

A recent report has revealed that hackers are obtaining compromising material and then holding it hostage until their demands are met. IHAB MOAWAD sheds some light on this new tactic that many are calling “sextortion.”|A recent report has revealed that hackers are obtaining compromising material and then holding it hostage until their demands are met. IHAB MOAWAD sheds some light on this new tactic that many are calling “sextortion.”

In April Trend Micro released a research paper about sextortion: the means through which cybercriminals obtain compromising personal images or videos of Internet users – which they then hold hostage until their demands have been met. Fast forward to July and we have seen the hack of controversial adultery/dating site, Ashley Madison. Cybercriminals wreaked havoc as they threatened to slowly leak the data of the adulterers using the site, until it and its companion site, “Established Men”, shut down.

An article on time.com calls this tactic “hacking 2.0”, stating that this new hacking method is not about the data, but the context. Making money from stolen data, like credit cards, is a lot of work and cybercriminals have latched onto the fact that they have a larger pay cheque to gain from those that stand to lose more than just money. Hence, a hack like Ashley Madison’s that could – and has – destroyed reputations and families is a gold mine for the team responsible for the hack (The Impact Team).

Now, moral opinions about Ashley Madison aside, I’m sure that no one appreciates any of their personal information being kidnapped and held for ransom. But cybercriminals are cunning and they know that if they keep the sums low enough, people that stand to lose more than money would rather pay up. In this case, the Ashley Madison hackers offered users the ultimatum of paying $19 to have all their information wiped off the site or having it leaked. But there is of course, no guarantee that you can trust a cybercriminal.

How does data kidnapping affect my business?

According to time.com, there is a new reality that’s making matters worse for corporate security teams and it’s that in recent years, there has been heavy investment in protecting financial data – spending money to fortify the most valuable data. So while credit cards may be protected, email servers may have been left in the lurch, but this will slowly change as personal data of different contexts becomes a bargaining chip for cybercriminals.

Ashley Madison is just one example of an enterprise that has been targeted in this manner. Another example is the malware Cryptolocker which forced victims to pay a sum to unscramble their data and subsequently made $27 million in just the first two months from small home owners and businesses. And then there was the Sony hack in December 2014, in which cybercriminals stole corporate emails and embarrassed the company. In hacking 2.0 cybercriminals don’t need to steal your money, all they need is any data that is valuable to you.

This means that executives should be working tirelessly to do an honest assessment about what their enterprise’s valuable data really is.  Then wise investments need to be made in protecting data that might seem inconsequential if stolen in one context, but a disaster if stolen in another. The bottom line? Every company will now have to plan for ransom and extortion scenarios.

So what now?

In addition to a stealthy security policy, companies now need a data kidnapping and extortion policy in order to properly protect themselves. This is on top of robust business security solutions. Employees, and in turn the business, for example, could benefit from having Trend Micro Security 10 on the mobile devices of employees. Trend Micro Security 10 is a recently launched security and privacy tool that’s fully compatible with Windows 10.

The new version’s security features are simple-to-use, yet provide state-of-the-art protection for employees’ data, delivered with optimal performance. This allows users to securely connect and engage safely online – on the company network – while protected from today’s evolving threat environment. The software will feature protection from exposing private information or becoming susceptible to data-theft and other malicious online threats on both personal and business devices.

Trend Micro Deep Discovery is also an option for business as is detects, analyses and responds to today’s stealthy targeted attacks in real time and then Deep Security delivers automated and highly scalable cloud security. But really, what you should do is speak to a Trend Micro professional about a customised security solution for all your business’s security needs. As is the case with any form of cybercrime, prevention is better than cure, and you don’t want to wait until you’ve had data kidnapped to react to hacking 2.0.

* Ihab Moawad, Vice President MMEA and CIS at Trend Micro

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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