Security & Fraud

Hacker Tracker: Breach Hits Canadian Agency, Cyber Ransoms Surge

Hackers Hit Canadian Agency

Hackers have no problem going after the big fish; from government agencies to global tech giants, cybercriminals have their eyes on the most lucrative prizes. In this week’s Hacker Tracker, PYMNTS was joined by Andrew Douthwaite, VP of Managed Services for VirtualArmour, who shared insights on some of the biggest news hitting the cybersecurity space this week.

Cyberattack Hits Canadian Agency

On Monday (March 13), the Canadian government was forced to pull the plug on its website for filing federal taxes after it discovered that hackers broke into the statistics bureau last week. The hack was reportedly made possible by a newly disclosed bug in the software.

“Bugs in software are inevitable; however, how organizations protect themselves from these bugs is within their control,” Douthwaite said. “Bad actors are constantly looking to capitalize on any bugs that are revealed and act quickly to cause as much damage as possible. This includes selling off information that is acquired or publicly revealing information that can cause damage to a brand or person.”

In the case of Statistics Canada, the good news is that the agency was able to thwart the intrusion before any data went out the door.

However, this was the first major hack attributable to a bug in Apache Struts 2 — software that is often used on government, bank and retail websites. Or, at least, this was the first known hack. Various security firms believe more of these are occurring because the exploit in Apache Strut 2 is easy to tap into and publicly known, since word of it started showing up security and hacking websites last week.

Techs are now working double time to patch that hole around the world, Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer with cyberintelligence firm Flashpoint, told Reuters. He said the vulnerability was actively being exploited by hackers, but offered no additional details.

“The benefit of more robust commercial solutions is that they can correlate information in order to spot patterns and identify threats before they occur,” Douthwaite explained. “Ultimate protection is often most successfully achieved through partnering with third party-managed services providers. These organizations have expertise and resources to oversee networks and ensure that specialists are constantly watching for the bad actors [who] will capitalize on these types of vulnerabilities.”

Cyber Ransoms (Still) On The Rise

It seems as though the trend of ransomware attacks isn’t disappearing any time soon.

The latest research from the National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Centre found that the risk to businesses is “significant and growing,” due to the increasing instances of ransomware attacks.

Cybersecurity experts warn that a variety of connected devices — ranging from watches to televisions, smartphones to fitness trackers — can be held hostage by hackers. This threat to the exposure or theft of personal data drives many victims to pay up the ransoms demanded by cybercriminals.

The joint report explained that cybercrime is becoming more aggressive, and there are an increasing number of opportunities for hackers due to the growing number of connected devices emerging online, BBC News reported.

“Ransomware attacks don’t discriminate between business and consumers and are continually expanding to reach more targets,” Douthwaite noted. “It gets worse. To further coerce the organization or individual to pay the ransom, illegal material, such as banned pornography or pirated content, is often planted on the computer or mobile device. This deters users and businesses from reporting the incident to the police for fear of additional legal consequences or tarnishing their reputation.”

Douthwaite said the FBI estimates that $21 million worth of revenue has been generated by two leading ransomware viruses alone.

According to him, mitigating and preventing ransomware in businesses requires that organizations first educate their staff about the growing threat. Douthwaite also noted the importance of a business having daily backups and a disaster recovery plan, so that in the wake of an attack, they are able to restore their mission critical files.

“It is important to realize that there is no magic bullet when it comes to protecting yourself from ransomware — on the business side, the best defense is the security-in-layers approach,” he said. “On the consumer side, the best defense is awareness. The key is to place as many deterrents as possible in all areas that could be breached.”


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