Safe surfing: Beware of botnets and the rise in ransomware threats
10/11/2017 // Russel Davis // Views

A report by the European policing agency Europol has revealed that the proliferation of ransomware has topped other forms of cyber crime in 2017. According to the 80-page report, ransomware has outperformed other forms of cybercrime and has steadily impacted victims across multiple industries in both the public and private sectors. The policing agency has coordinated several successful cross-border operations against cybercriminals in the previous year, and has cited some high-profile threats such as the WannaCry attacks that have affected millions of computer users.

Europol director Rob Wainwright has stressed that national authorities are in dire need of allocating more resources to targeting the makers of hacking tools. The director has also noted that the increasing sophistication of cybercrime community, which has enabled criminals and groups to band together in providing cybercrime services, has now become the key driver in the growth of online crime.

"The last year has been exceptional, given the size and the type and the range of the attacks that we've seen...The global impact of huge cyber security events such as the WannaCry ransomware epidemic has taken the threat from cybercrime to another level. Banks and other major businesses are now targeted on a scale not seen before and, while Europol and its partners in policing and industry have enjoyed success in disrupting major criminal syndicates operating online, the collective response is still not good enough...In particular people and companies everywhere must do more to better protect themselves," Wainwright has stated in a Daily Mail article.

The Europol report has also listed other cybercrimes -- such as data breaches, darknet markets, payment fraud, and youth extortion for child pornography -- as growing concerns among security experts. Likewise, the report has also highlighted the risk of direct attacks on bank networks, which in turn could be used by criminals to directly transfer funds, take control of card balances, and regulate ATM transactions. The policing body is slated to establish a special unit in order to address darkmarket operations, Wainright has noted.

Botnets also pose increasing threat to cyber security

Aside from the rise in ransomware attacks, a new report carried out by researchers at Norton Security has shown that the sudden lagging and crashing of both Wi-Fi connections and devices may be traced to hackers breaking into computer and device systems. According to online security experts, a large number of electronic devices -- including iPhones and tablets, baby monitors and other smart devices -- can now be easily hacked and turned into botnets.

Researchers have defined bots as internet-connected devices that have been infected with malware to enable hackers to remotely manage many devices at a time. Combining infected electronics such as smart devices, Wi-Fi connection, and computers make up a powerful interconnected network called botnets. According to the Norton report, European countries have accounted for 18.7 percent of the world's total bot population last year. Russia has appeared to be the most affected country, which made up 14 percent of the continent's total botnet population.

"More than 13.8 million people in the U.K. were victims of online crime in the past year, and bots and botnets are a key tool in the cyber attacker's arsenal. It's not just computers that are providing criminals with their robot army. In 2016, we saw cybercriminals making increasing use of smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to strengthen their botnet ranks. Servers also offer a much larger bandwidth capacity for a DDoS attack than traditional consumer PCs," Norton official Candid Wueest has told the Daily Mail online.

Security experts cautioned that users are rarely aware of the tapping being done to their devices, which makes the activity even more dangerous as the perpetrator may well do all the dirty work once it takes full control of the system.

Sources include: 1 2


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