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Defenses average users can use against cyber crime

By Jeff John Roberts and Adam Lashinsky June 22, 2017 Business is under assault from cybercriminals like never before, and the cost to companies is exploding. Like most other victims of corporate espionage, the firms preferred to keep mum about having been victimized. Instead, word of the attack leaked in the press and then was confirmed by federal prosecutors and the firms themselves.

The Feds made public their discoveries and trumpeted their efforts to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. Business is under assault like never before from hackers, and the cost and severity of the problem is escalating almost daily.

The latest statistics are a call to arms: Cisco projects the total to grow by another two and a half times, to 3. Indeed, the pace of cyberassaults is only increasing. As the number and scale of network attacks grow, the toll on business is rising. The average total cost of a data breach in the U.

In the New York law-firm case, for example, prosecutors said the attackers attempted to penetrate targeted servers more than 100,000 times over seven months. It has become abundantly clear that no network is completely safe.

But there remains a gaping chasm between awareness of the threat and readiness to address it: Cybercrime is metastasizing for the same reason online services have become so popular with consumers and businesses alike: Hacking is easier than ever thanks to the ever-growing number of online targets and the proliferation of off-the-shelf attack software.

The very Internet networks that were built for convenience and profit are exposing their users to a steady stream of new threats. No sector of corporate America is safe. Hackers have plundered big retailers like Neiman Marcus and Home Depot for credit card and customer information. And OneLogin, a startup that bills itself as a secure password management service, recently lost certain customer data to hackers. That spending is an acknowledgment that every company needs to safeguard its digital assets, which in turn requires knowing about the criminals that keep coming at them and what defenses they can build to minimize the damage.

But faceless gangs of nasty nerds?

Hacked: How Business Is Fighting Back Against the Explosion in Cybercrime

Where hackers are different, however, is that they rarely meet in person. Deep in the forums, crooks hatch hacking plots of all sorts: Cybercriminals have proved adept at adopting successful corporate strategies of their own. A recent development has seen the cleverest crooks selling hacking tools to criminal small-fry.

According to a report from security software giant Symantecgangs now offer so-called ransomware as a service, a trick that involves licensing software that freezes computer files until a company pays up. The gangs then take their cut for providing the license to their criminal customers. That includes the Russians who are believed to have hacked into the Democratic National Committee last year and the North Korean team credited with unleashing the WannaCry malware as a moneymaking scheme.

The attackers posted a notice featuring images of skulls.

BT first to share cyber-security data on a large scale and urges other ISPs to follow its lead.

Playing defense In early March, the information security team at ride-hailing giant Uber leaped into action: An Uber employee had reported a suspicious email message, and similar reports were flooding in from all over the company. And the company has had its share of problems as a caretaker of sensitive data. The job of the incident commander—a term of art in cybersecurity circles—is to keep the company informed about potential attacks. But anyone with a Gmail address was vulnerable.

Cybercrime is so serious that these formerly little-known and unloved executives now typically have a direct line to boards of directors—a big break from the past. Before, the CISO would report to the chief information officer, who was responsible for buying and operating computers, not obsessing over flies in the ointment.

If the CISO defenses average users can use against cyber crime the alarm over a breach, too often he or she ended up being the one sacrificed to appease top management. These days, though, smart companies treat hacking threats like other existential risks to their business—recessions, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters come to mind—and plan accordingly. The CISO is pivotal in maintaining readiness.

At some point it has to call the cops, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the U. Both agencies have reach and power that allow them to take the fight to foreign cybercrooks. On several occasions, U. The likely outcome—an investigation—imposes burdens on the victim company in terms of money and time. And it increases the chance that sensitive details about the hack will leak publicly. A new, multibillion-dollar industry has sprung up to help. An industry is born The videoconference camera looked like any other.

But unbeknownst to its corporate owner, the device was working overtime: Hackers had captured the microphone remotely and were using it to spy on every meeting that took place in the boardroom. The company, which does not want to be identified, finally got wise to the spying scheme thanks to Darktrace, a global cybersecurity company that uses artificial intelligence to detect aberrant activity on client networks.

Darktrace CEO Nicole Eagan says her company noticed the camera had been gobbling abnormal amounts of data. This raised a red flag, enabling Darktrace to notify its client that something was amiss. Darktrace is just one of hundreds of firms that offer help to combat the hacking epidemic.

BT steps up battle against cyber-crime by sharing malware data with ISPs

Chart shows tactics used in data breaches Graphic by Nicolas Rapp For executives, all of this entrepreneurial activity translates into a dizzying array of security options. There are newcomers like Tanium, for instance, which offers a service that lets companies see who is on their network. Publicly traded Palo Alto Networks makes a kind of intelligent firewall that uses machine learning to thwart intruders.

There are also a host of niche security firms such as Area 1 which specializes in defending against phishing scams and Lookout which is a mobile-phone-focused security service. With all of this firepower arrayed against it, how can cybercrime continue to grow so fast? At the end of the day, though, humans are as much to blame as software. Chandna notes that most hacking attacks come about in two ways, neither of which involves a high level of technical sophistication: While cyberdefense tools can mitigate such attacks, some will always succeed.

Did you see these pictures of you from the office party? A version of this article appears in the Jul.