A Look at the Growing Business of Data Theft

by Matt Klassen on April 14, 2016

_88981406_petya_figure1My guess is that when you think of hackers or other cyber-criminals stealing data, deploying destructive malware, or holding computers for ransom you likely think of a few shady characters, perhaps with mohawks and a variety of piercings and questionable tattoos, sitting in a dank, dark basement staring at computer screens. Truth is though, as comfortable as we might feel picturing hackers existing on the tertiary of society, cyber-crime has become big business with massive growth, and, crazy as it may sound, it is going mainstream at an alarming rate.

In fact, according to data released by cyber-security firm Symantec, with more than 500 million identities exposed or stolen in 2015, such data theft is becoming so lucrative that these hackers exist and operate just like any legitimate software firm.

“They have extensive resources and highly skilled technical staff that operate with such efficiency that they maintain normal business hours and even take the weekends and holidays off,” said Kevin Haley, director of Symantec security in a statement.

As you attempt to digest the notion of hackers taking Christmas off from stealing your personal information or enjoying a coffee break from holding your computer for ransom, consider that on the other side of cyber-crime we have companies who continue to hold back information about such breaches, meaning the actual number of identities stolen could be exponentially higher.

The fact of the matter is that with each and every day digital attacks are growing in both number and severity, as increasing sophisticated methods of intrusion result in increased data loss, disruption, and financial loss, so says the Internet Security Threat Report released by Symantec this week.

“We see a higher level of professionalization among these attackers, and not just nation states where you expect that sort of thing, but even with the common cybercriminals,” said Haley in a statement

Not only that, but people have made a business out of discovering the vulnerabilities in our various systems and selling them to would-be attackers, those who deploy them and attempt to steal or otherwise collect money from their victims.

“People figured out that they could make money by finding zero-day vulnerabilities and selling them to attackers,” Haley explained. “So there became a marketplace, and these things started to have value, and people started to hunt for them.”

Call it the industrialization of cyber-crime, but finding and exploiting vulnerabilities has become big business, again so much so that these illegal operations now look almost indistinguishable from legitimate security firms, with regular business hours, vacation days, and all the rest.

But as I mentioned, while businesses and individuals continue to be targets for increasingly sophisticated hackers with ever-evolving methods, on the flip side are the victims themselves, who often choose to pay out the criminals rather than report the breach, or if they do report it, often choose to obscure the true impact.

Although we expect mobile devices to come under growing attack over the next year, there is also hope that with the right preventative measures and continuing investment in security, users can achieve a high level of protection,” the report concluded.

So despite the general doom and gloom that cyber-criminals definitely have the upper hand and there’s no much we can really do to eliminate all vulnerabilities, the solution remains the same: play safe with your data, don’t wander into the nether regions of the online world, change your passwords, and know what you’re downloading. Granted that won’t guarantee your safety, but it sure will go a long ways towards preserving it.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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