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).
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).
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.
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]