The first hackers tried to get into networks and computers for fun, but that’s no longer the case. Hacking has become a major criminal enterprise that provides bad actors with a regular source of income. In some rare cases, hacking is also a weapon deployed by nation-states to undermine or sabotage a country’s infrastructure. Still, mostly, it’s a way for lazy (yet dedicated) individuals to make money by stealing private records.
Since the world became more connected, hackers have looked for ways to profit from penetrating systems. The traditional view of a hacker was someone who tried to gain access to financial systems and siphon off funds for their gain. Although this may have been true twenty years ago, it’s no longer how most hackers make their money. Data is now a commodity that a hacker can buy and sell on the black market, just like other raw materials.
What Motivates Today’s Hackers?
In the past, hackers were highly talented individuals who wrote specific programs to exploit systems. By scripting programs together, hackers could probe systems until they found a vulnerability for which they then created a specific exploit to penetrate the system. It may be surprising to note that most hackers today aren’t that good. They use pre-created packages available on the internet to probe systems without necessarily knowing how everything works.
It led to a new kind of cybercriminal. Someone who simply had to assemble a readily available set of tools to start attacking businesses, individuals, and government agencies. The prevalence of cyberattacks in recent years shows just how easy it is for someone to spend a few hours online and find many packages that can help them to defraud businesses or harvesting data.
The Attack Types Cybercriminals Use to Penetrate Systems
Most hackers will use different attack types to deploy malware into a system. It could be a phishing attack, Denial of Service (DoS), or hiding malicious code in a new application or bit of software. Although the attack types differ, the intentions are usually similar. Once the hacker gains access to the system, they’ll start extracting records or look for other connected networks to extend the infection.
Some breaches can last for years. In one case, a breach went undetected for four years leading to the theft of over 500 million customer records. The longer the breach goes unnoticed, the more records a hacker can extract and sell to other criminals on the dark web or hacker forums. Other hacks include deploying ransomware into a network and leveraging the value of the entire system to exploit the owners or users.
The Rise of Ransomware Attacks
Stealing records is no longer the most profitable attack type for hackers. Since 2013, malware that deploys ransomware enabled many ‘novice’ or ‘amateur’ hackers to turn their ventures into large, multinational criminal enterprises. The tools required are available (sometimes for purchase but mostly for free) on the dark web, and from there, it’s just a question of finding the right deployment method to become a successful cybercriminal.
Ransomware encrypts data within a computer network or information system, making it impossible to access the files without the decrypt key. To get the decrypt key, victims have to pay a ransom to the attacker. If the victim doesn’t pay, they lose the files forever. Payment is usually in a cryptocurrency, making it impossible to track by the authorities.
Even if the company or individual refuses to pay, hackers can still extract the data and sell it on to other criminals to make a profit, although this may result in earning less from the attack. Ransomware continues to pose an existential threat to businesses and wreaks havoc on individuals if an attack succeeds.
The Value of Records for Hackers
Not every record is equal in value to hackers. While credit card information used to be a prime target, these records remain relatively cheap compared to others. According to the latest estimates, the most valuable files to sell on the dark web are:
- Medical information – Fetches between $20 and $50 each
- Financial records – Credit card information will cost between $2 and $5 per record
- Personal and government files – Cost about $1 per file on average
Proprietary manufacturing information and social media histories also have value, although the exact amount for these types of records depends on the targets and organizations involved. As firms now use any type of data to manipulate elections, perceptions, and trends, you must protect your personal information at all times.
Improving Cybersecurity with Donnellon McCarthy Enterprises
To improve an organization’s information security, Managed IT Services provides a dedicated team of security professionals and tools to protect sensitive data. Most hacks occur during the night time or on weekends, so all systems must remain supervised at all times. Donnellon McCarthy will work with any business, agency, or institution to improve its cybersecurity and establish effective monitoring systems to protect against breaches.
For improved cybersecurity and help with ensuring employees’ information is secure, reach out to Donnellon McCarthy Enterprises today.