Beyond the Walls

Hackers are able to anonymously navigate their way through cyberspace through a Tor system, which uses an encryption that makes your IP address completely untraceable. There are some hackers that have used this power to become cyber criminals. You see, our trail of data within Walled Gardens (which can extend from biographical information to credit card details) is profitable – and cyber criminals have found ways to utilise this, as I will show through case examples (Mitew, 2014).

Image sourced from Shannon Dickinson, Quizzle Wire, 2010.

LulzSec was a cyber crime organisation that operated from 2011-2014. They developed a botnet that releases an undetectable virus into Windows computers, which then allows hackers to gain access to these computers and all the data they hold unnoticed. They attacked various commercial companies, including Sony’s Playstation Network, where they stole the private data of 24.6 million customers. Members of LulzSec also hired out the botnet they had developed for “several thousand pounds a month” for cyber criminals to use at will (Arthur, 2013).

Another form of cyber crime that utilises the ‘data=$$$’ philosophy are groups that infiltrate systems and ‘kidnap’ their data for ransom. This process has been aptly titled ‘ransomware‘ and it is a highly effective system that continues today. Only a week ago, ABC News 24 was hit via an email pertaining to be ‘Australia Post’, which turned out to be a Russian ransomware organisation (ABC News, 2014).

“An image obtained on October 7, 2014, from Symantec’s website, showing a computer screenshot after a ransomware attack.” Image sourced from ABC News, 2014.

The most notable ransomware attack to date is the ongoing worm called ‘Reveton’, which launched in 2012. When a user unknowingly accesses a website that is rigged to exploit their software vulnerabilities, Reveton infects them with a virus that holds the user’s data captive unless they pay a fine (Schwartz, 2012).  In August this year, Reveton have reportedly launched a ‘Pony password stealer’ that gives them access to virtual currency, such as Bitcoin, from users (Kirk, 2014).

What these case studies indicate is the clear value of data obtained in Walled Gardens. Seems we can’t catch a break – Walled Garden corporations use and sell our data at their will and cyber criminals take note of this value to make profit of their own kind.

Surface dwellers aware of data collection may not be aware of how deep this collection can go. The internet does not forget nor does it wish to forget – it is a system fundamentally based on surveillance (Mitew, 2014) and that is something I know I won’t forget every time I create obtainable data.

For information on how to manage your online privacy, click here.

References:

ABC News (2014) Crypto-ransomware attack targets Australians via fake Australia Post emails. ABC News. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-07/fake-auspost-emails-used-in-crypto-ransomware-attack/5795734 [Accessed 18/10/14]

Arthur, C. (2013) LulzSec: what they did, who they were and how they were caught, The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/16/lulzsec-hacking-fbi-jail [Accessed: 14/10/14]

Kirk, J (2014). ‘Reveton’ ransomware upgraded with powerful password stealer. PC World. Available at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2466980/reveton-ransomware-upgraded-with-powerful-password-stealer.html [Accessed 18/10/14]

Mitew, T (2014) Dark Fiber: hackers, botnets, cyberwar (Parts 1-3). Youtube. Oct 14. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNRjkVVYOzE [Accessed: 15/10/14]

Schwartz, M (2012) Reveton Malware Freezes PCs, Demands Payment, Dark Reading. Available at: http://www.darkreading.com/attacks-and-breaches/reveton-malware-freezes-pcs-demands-payment/d/d-id/1105809?  [Accessed 18/10/14]

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About intersectionalalien

Hi hello people of earth/space/cyberspace, intersectional alien here. I’m still trying to figure out my place on this earth. I like intersectional feminism, feminism in popular culture, LGBTQ+, refugee rights, veganism, mental health, nihilism, travelling, unlearning institutional conditioning, good tunes and consuming and creating stories.
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10 Responses to Beyond the Walls

  1. Hi, awesome post! Bringing up the point about walled gardens was really interesting and made me think just how safe are we in walled gardens? Typically, users think they’re more protected in a walled garden but the case studies you discussed showed otherwise. There are dangers online and your examples of cybercrime showed that we need to be wary and diligent of what we put online. This type of uncertainty and behaviour has resultantly had an effect on companies too http://pando.com/2014/09/16/hackers-make-the-case-for-trusting-amazons-and-apples-walled-gardens/. This article extends on your discussion of walled gardens and data as it talks about trust issues consumers are now having after hackers attacked walled gardens such as Amazon and Apple.

  2. mab6199 says:

    Interesting post! You really covered a lot of ground from the lecture but made it succinct and understandable, as well as adding your own bit of knowledge, really showing you reflected on this week’s topic. I like that you ended on the walled gardens point, I chose to focus on that for my entire blog as I couldn’t quite grasp how to integrate it with the other content, but you have made that clearer for me. Keep up the good work!

  3. April says:

    Your post has a good point of how you actually put walled gardens with this week topic cybercrime. And, I didn’t know there’s another crime of data called “ransomware” ! Thanks for increasing my knowledge! Just because I wondered what ransomware is so I looked up for that. I don’t know if you totally understand how it works but I wanted to share this with you. This article explains how Ransomware that holds your data hostage unless you pay up is real and dangerous to your network’s health and how it works as a threat. Please check this out! http://www.networkworld.com/article/2835001/network-security/a-tale-of-ransomware-that-will-make-your-blood-run-cold.html

  4. jawgbear says:

    The best part of your posts is how well you link external research with lecture material, readings and your own interpretations. It reiterates our topic for the week and extends on it nicely, so I come away feeling well read!
    The data = $$$ is such a suitable analogy for this week. And this data is sourced so easily, and stored without cost, which presents both opportunity for some and problems for others, as the examples of LulzSec, Ransomware and the Reveton worm. It is particularly eye opening to think this malware has penetrated systems worldwide, you just never think these scams will happen to you.
    The only thing I could have suggested for you is to maybe explain Bitcoin a bit further, even with a link (such as this one – http://www.coindesk.com/information/what-is-bitcoin/) but that is extremely minor. A top post.

  5. Your statement that “the internet does not forget nor does it wish to forget” is aptly applied to hackers. That is because internet is built in a way that makes it cheaper to store data than to delete it. You can read more about that concept here: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2339086/is-it-cheaper-to-keep-than-delete. It is worrying that there is actually that much data being kept about our lives. It may be necessary for users to delete some of their own data from time to time. But I’d assume that most data is not worth the effort. Maybe that attitude is the problem?

  6. rosahall says:

    Hi there! I really enjoyed reading your post. I like that you have touched on a few different cyber crime stories. I mainly focussed my blog post on the Lulzsec case. I found that what they did hacking into several different companies and revealing peoples private security information just to prove that their security systems were weak, was a horrible way to go about it and they also ruined the original definition of hacking which was ‘all information should be shared’. It’s a shame that the word ‘hacker’ has been turned into a bad one, as there a lot of ‘good’ hackers out there that believe all information should be shared with the world whether it be bad or good. Great use of links and references 🙂

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