This past week saw a Russian hacking group hack into Colonial Pipeline, a company that provides gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to a large portion of the Eastern Seaboard. The hacking group, Darkside, reassured the world this was not political in nature, but done purely for monetary gain. The fact that they generally target English-speaking countries either supports this (English-speaking countries are generally richer than Slavic-speaking ones), or, you know, not.
Cyber crime is SCARY
Ransomware and cyber attacks are not just the crimes of the future, they are crimes of the now, and warfare of the future. In doing research on hacking for a current project, I am both horrified and fascinated. I can’t help but go down all kinds of rabbit holes since I’ve been working in IT forever and the details of how the attacks happen hold a particular interest.
Most pointedly, these attacks are primarily made possible by human nature. A distracted employee clicks on a link and enters their password. Another one leaves their workstation unlocked when they take a coffee break. A third has been using the same password for ten years on every single site and social media outlet. It happens!
Cyber Crime Fiction vs. Reality
In recent fiction hackers are often seen as individual vigilantes, young (they’re ALWAYS young) men and women, often neurodiverse, who use their supergenius skills to avenge wrongs and take down greedy corporations. If only…
The more prosaic truth is that hackers are men and women of many ages who understand a certain area of the vast discipline that is computer science. Writing malware is no more difficult than creating an app, and there are tutorials for everything. On youtube. You can find detailed videos explaining how to hack everything from a keycard to a phone to a computer. Watch at your own risk. Nightmares might follow.
Hacking groups function like any business. They have a business plan, a mission statement, worker bees and directors. And in the case of Darkside, they have a customer service department to help their victims pay the ransom easily and restore their data successfully.
Tell us your scary hacking stories. Who needs sleep, right?