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Pay up or else!!! Protecting yourself from blackmail online


Pay up or else!!! Protecting yourself from blackmail online

Viruses, Spyware, and Trojans are all used by cybercriminals to compromise your personal information. Often you don't even know your computer has been attacked until it's too late to prevent a data breach. Here we give you a rundown on the most common forms of malware and what you can do to protect yourself and your business.

Walking through the door you notice a blank envelope on the mat. You open it and find a note written with newspaper cuttings. “Leave £5,000 behind the bins in the churchyard. Or your cat gets it!”

Only, this isn’t how it happens anymore. Blackmail notes aren’t found on doormats, and professional criminals aren’t interested in harming your pets. The most common threat to be made against either yourself or your business is as a result of a cyber data breach. The internet is possibly the most amazing single piece of information sharing technology to have ever been invented. It can be no surprise then, that unscrupulous individuals are using it to exploit the information stored in the cloud and on internet connected devices.

Cyber blackmail or cyber extortion is a crime in which an individual or group, who can be anywhere in the world, threatens to perform certain acts if their demands are not met. These individuals are often part of an organised group of hackers and cybercriminals, many with links to criminal gangs and terrorist organisations. The threats these criminals make can be anything from publishing personal or business information, withholding access to servers via encryption keys or impacting your brand image by taking over your social media channels. 

This form of blackmail starts with a piece of malware (malicious software) being used to attack your device. Once the malware is successfully implanted on your system then a demand for payment is made, usually in the form of Bitcoin or some other cyber currency. 

How a piece of malware affects your system depends on the type of software that it is;

Viruses – Like their biological namesake, computer viruses have the ability to latch onto “clean” files, corrupt them and then copy themselves to infect more. This can cause files to be permanently deleted, potentially causing a massive system failure if enough files become corrupted. 

Spyware – These do just what they say on the tin. Spyware sits in the background of your system often completely undetected. This software watches what you are doing and records information such as passwords, bank details and browsing history. 

Trojans – This malware often disguises itself as legitimate software or can be included in legitimate software that has been tampered with. Software allowing you to use paid-for video and music streaming services for free as well as bootleg versions of Windows and Apple products are often sources of trojans. This malware isn’t necessarily damaging in itself but it often provides a “back door” through your internet security allowing more destructive types of malware to enter. 

Ransomware – These can lock down your entire computer system. Cybercriminals will then threaten to delete everything unless you enter the encryption key that they will provide you once you have made payment. 

Botnets – Botnets are designed to infect a string of computers that are then utilised for a criminal’s own needs. A good example of this is when the Smominru Botnet infected 526,000 Windows servers and used their processing power to mine $3.6m worth of cryptocurrency. 

Now that we’ve told you all the scary stuff do you want to hear the good news?

The first part is that you can get fantastic anti-malware software completely free. Even the most comprehensive, watertight package only costs about £30 a year, so protecting yourself and business won’t break the bank. 

The second part is just for lucky Herefordshire-based businesses. Did you know that Herefordshire Council and the University of Wolverhampton are joining forces to create a new centre for cybersecurity right here at Skylon Park, Rotherwas Industrial Estate? That’s only about 100m from our office in case you were wondering. This facility will become a hub for cybersecurity research and development in the UK and will provide key resources including training facilities to help local businesses protect themselves from cybercriminals. 

Still concerned about cybersecurity within your business? Contact Martyn Wright to find out how Ducketts Trusted Advisers can help keep your business protected in a potentially risky online world.