One of the main issues that affect Information and Communication networks today is the increasing prevalence of cybercrimes.

Cybercrimes are deliberate efforts to access and leverage information technology networks by unauthorized parties primarily for unlawful reasons.

The main motivation behind cyber-attacks is often damage, sabotage, ransom or theft.

In September 2016, The Los Angeles Times published a report about a hacking incident on WestPark Capital, an investment bank based in Los Angeles, California. 

The hacking attack was orchestrated by the hacking group known as TheDarkOverlord, who has leaked around 20 documents online.

According to reports, the CEO of WestPark Capital, Richard Rappaport, declined to pay the initial ransom that the hacking group requested.

This decision prompted TheDarkOverlord to release the files, and it threatens to disclose much more if their demands are not met.


At the moment, the real identity of TheDarkOverlord remains unknown. It is even not clear whether this entity is a group of hackers or a lone hacker.

TheDarkOverlord, conveniently named after a comic book villain, came into the public limelight when the hacking group attempted to extort healthcare facilities in June this year.

The hacking group claimed to have stolen 10 million patient’s insurance records including three medical databases containing information relating to more than 600,000 patients. The data contained everything from social security numbers, contact information, addresses, medical records, and insurance coverage.

TheDarkOverlord threatened to sell this information on the online black market if the ransoms were not paid.

The ramifications of this data breach were significant as the information could be easily used for criminal activities including fraud and identity theft.

True to their word, the hacking group did put the information on offer in batches going upwards from $100,000.

These events earlier this year show that TheDarkOverlord is serious about leaking the WestPark Capital’s data.

During the healthcare systems hack, this hacking group apparently called a number of the patients and informed them that their information was going to be leaked or sold online.

A journalist who communicated with the hacker through an encrypted chat was a testament to this.

As such, the data breach at WestPark Capital could have serious consequences for the affected parties.


The WestPark Capital hacking incident reveals a worrying direction in cybercrime.

TheDarkLord released about 20 files, containing background checks on key individuals, Social Security numbers, non-disclosure agreements, contracts, reports, internal presentations, and private stock offering information.

According to estimates by John Bambenek, the initial ransom that the hacking group demanded was more than $1 million.

Bambenek is the threat systems manager for Fidelis Cyber Security.

This amount could be the “handsome proposal” made to Richard Rappaport that TheDarkOverlord was referring to during their online chat with Motherboard.

The bank’s failure to pay this amount is probably the motivation behind the hacking group leaks.

It is relatively safe to assume that investigations are currently underway to find out exactly how the hacking group managed to execute the data breach.

According to a report by FTSE Global Markets, Jamie Moles, a cyber-security consultant, speculates on the possible weak link that could have facilitated the hack.

Moles pointed out the network perimeter security implemented by WestPark Capital.

The investment bank’s failure at limiting the number of IP addresses authorized to access their network remotely could have been their undoing.

The hacking group themselves stated that their access to WestPark’s data was aided by vulnerabilities in Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol lending credibility to Jamie Moles’s speculations.

However, without conclusive data from the investigations, the hacking methodology remains open to debate.

This attack stands out as it adds to this year’s trend in online extortion.

For some time, institutions have mostly been focusing on ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks are whereby cybercriminals encrypt company data and demand ransom for its decryption.

While these types of attacks can be mitigated through backup systems and other cyber security measures, the WestPark Capital attack where data is stolen is much more difficult to manage.

Since hacking groups like TheDarkOverlord usually threaten to damage a company’s reputation, payment of the ransom would be the path of least resistance for many organizations.

It seems like cybercrime is getting more and more sophisticated and may prove to be a major networking pain point in years to come.

Source : darkwebnews

Categorized in Deep Web

New mutating viruses, like Locky and CryptoLocker, are quickly popping up. And many are infecting small businesses, which are now big targets for hackers.

Undercapitalized and outgunned small businesses are still the weak links in cybersecurity, even though they may have valuable data. Their percentage of IT budget directed to security has been increasing from 4.9 percent in 2010 to 7.9 percent last year, according to Ponemon Institute's annual IT security Tracking study. But spending still lags behind big companies.

Meanwhile, hackers are inventing increasingly sophisticated malware. 

"Small businesses don't believe they're targeted by bad guys," said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the research think tank. "But small businesses are now targets, since big companies have the resources for security."

Small businesses can also offer entry to bigger ones, where there's lots of data to steal. In 2013, Target's data was famously breached. But few people know that the company's vast database was actually hacked through its HVAC vendor. That attack ended up costing Target $39 million in settlements and affecting 40 million customers.

These days, malicious programs are spreading even faster than before. The FBI warns that malware attacks are on the rise. And there are now many mutations of these destructive ransomware viruses, which can infiltrate computers.

Ransomware attacks computer systems through malicious links or websites and then encrypts their files. Pop-up messages appear asking the business to pay a ransom in hundreds or thousands of dollars for systems to be restored. Lately, ransom is asked to be paid in bitcoin, which can't be tracked, adds an FBI advisory.

One ransomware variety, called CryptoLocker, spreads a virus when a malicious email attachment is clicked. Banking data is then stolen and files encrypted so they can't be used.

"Ransomware is brutally malicious and bad for small businesses," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "It's also quite effective, since they have data, too, and can be used as stepping stones to bigger businesses."

The upshot is that more big companies are holding small vendors accountable for data breaches, said Ponemon.

These breaches can be devastating, he added. Small business may have access to huge amounts of data, such as email marketing services. So after a breach, small business can find themselves out of business and dealing with big law suits, Ponemon said.

The upshot is that small businesses need tight cybersecurity to protect their lifeblood.

"Small businesses are now targets, since big companies have the resources for security."

And they shouldn't count on law enforcement to help, said Kaiser. The crimes occur remotely and don't have fingerprints, he noted. So it's hard to track down the bad guys. "So focus on what you can control," he said, "and how you would respond and recover."

The best defense starts with a basic security audit of key assets. Take a step back, Kaiser advised, and know what you need to protect. "Small businesses get overwhelmed by risk," he said. "But what are they at risk for?"

The objective is coming up with a risk-management approach to protect data, he said. That may mean targeting new disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things, such as a video camera that's web connected, which can be a weak link. Or protecting smartphones used for business, which are also targets for a malware that locks them down and then demands ransom, said the FBI.

"The Internet of Things is happening so quickly," said Ponemon. "If you don't control access to one part, you can corrupt the whole chain." Wi-fi networks also need to be secure.

Do a risk audit

Regularly backing up data and storing it in a secure cloud is another good defense. "It can mitigate the attack," said David Burg, PricewaterhouseCoopers cybersecurity leader. "In a highly connected world, it's especially important." If the system is infected, it can be restored.

Kaiser advised using multifactor authentication, since it's stronger than just passwords. Devices can also be encrypted for extra protection.

Security leaks are most apt to happen in the cloud, added Ponemon. So experts advise finding a reputable cloud service that's secure and can hold system information.

"Read the reviews," said Kaiser. "And do your homework, such as finding out how the cloud services are maintained. Outsourcing can save money over time."

Ultimately, malware attacks may begin with simple employee error, such as clicking on a malicious link. So Ponemon suggests that small businesses create a culture of security. That means training employees on how not to share passwords or open suspicious emails.

"Good protection starts at the computer," he said.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/27/warning-a-wave-of-new-viruses-is-targeting-small-businesses.html

Categorized in Internet of Things

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