Cyberattacks: Hackers operate like companies and are better equipped than their victims

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In 2020, cyberattacks increased by 62% worldwide compared to the previous year. (Photo: Adobe Stock).

Dozens of connections around the world to hack systems, steal information and collect juicy sums that are distributed in 50, 100, 200 bitcoin accounts in a matter of seconds and are untraceable. How they work the computer attacks that put governments, companies and individuals in check. What explains this phenomenon? Can you be the next victim?

Stopping pipelines, paralyzing health services, lowering a country’s communications network, hijacking sensitive information from a government or even rendering a company inoperative and bankrupt, all this and more is now within the reach of a click for hundreds of hackers. The other side: billions of potential cyber attack victims around the world who have never been so exposed to losing everything. What is done to prevent it?

The worst management is the one that is not done And that phrase seems to fit perfectly with the reality of a world almost paralyzed when it comes to mitigating the risk of cyber attacks despite the fact that more and more people are losing the game against digital crime. According to Statista, a German data analysis company, in 2020 cyberattacks increased by 62% worldwide compared to 2019. The statistic is not accidental and grows at a time when products and services around the world are turning digital to continue operating in a pandemic. The data also accompanies the stories of big enterprises and the experiences of hundreds of SMEs, individuals, public and private institutions and even governments that have been the target of financial fraud or data hijacking this months.

Recently, Google He was the victim of massive financial fraud. The company received an email that appeared to come from a known vendor and charged alleged outstanding invoices. After several exorbitant payments, the company discovered that it had been duped. “With this modality they stole millions of dollars from the company and if an attack of this kind affects a digital giant like Google, it sets the standard that it can harm anyone,” he explains Francisco Espinosa, one of the representatives of Ironscales, an Israeli cybersecurity company in Latin America.

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After the fraud, Google invested a hefty sum to find the attackers and recover some of the lost money, but that is an outlier among hundreds of robberies without justice or recovery. “These types of attacks are not usually aimed primarily at large companies, but rather small and medium businesses without sufficient resources to prosecute criminals”Says Espinosa. According to Deloitte, cyberattacks are already the third most threatening risk for companies mentioned by the cybersecurity expert and that drive the world’s economies (the first two are related to the pandemic).

In 2021 between 50% and 70% of Ransomware attacks (data hijacking), another of the most common modalities in the current ecosystem, they were aimed at SMEs according to the United States Secretary of Homeland Security. Under this modality, cybercriminals inject a virus into the organization that generally enters through email and encrypts the victim’s data to block access to systems rendering them inoperative. In exchange for returning access, the attackers ask for a financial ransom, in most cases, in bitcoins. “Once you pay the ransom, they give you the keys to what you lost and you can operate again, but now it happens frequently that you also ask for a second ransom not to make confidential information public that they copied when they kidnapped your data, ”says Espinosa. According to the National Cybersecurity Alliance of the United States, 60% of the SMEs that were the target of this attack went bankrupt and despite that the risk is not mitigated and the attacks grow. In fact, 80% of those who are targeted by cyberattacks are again.

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The governments they are not exempt from this reality. Last week, for example, Lazio vaccination system, the area in which Rome is located in Italy, was the target of hacking. The vaccination campaign was compromised and had to be postponed and readjusted at a critical moment to stop the advance of the Delta Strain in Europe. In Ecuador in July a computer attack paralyzed the state telecommunications system and seriously affected local, regional and international fixed telephony services, in addition to internet access and satellite television linked to CNT. Better known, although less lethal and immediate, are also attacks and interventions to political campaigns. In the United States, these types of practices are on the rise and were at the center of the last presidential debate.

The threat is taken increasingly seriously in the White House and the President Joe Biden has publicly acknowledged that it has war potential. “It is very likely that if we end up involved in a war between powers be it because of cybersecurity breaks that, in addition, they are growing exponentially, “said the US president. Espinosa admits that several of these attacks stem from Russia and China and that it is alarming that they still have not put a brake on them.

Part of what helps explain the inability to stop or prevent cyber attacks at the state level has to do with the lack of international cooperation. In many cases, the governments of those countries in which the offensives are born they cover up the criminals who execute them. Although this is the case of great powers that have been victims of hackers such as the United States, in emerging markets the situation is different. The risk is underestimated, there is little knowledge on the subject and lack of resources intended for computer security. When we talk about attacks on private parties, the context is more complex.

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“When you see the attacks on private companies, you find that they come from different places, even from servers in the countries where the attack occurs. This has become an industry. The largest hacker groups they operate as companies and they are more and better equipped than their victims, ”says Espinosa.

Hacker groups like Conti or Rebel, for example, they work like real companies with employees, oiled procedures, clear objectives and financial goals. They are not improvised attackers, they study and know perfectly well the responsiveness of the targets they choose. In addition, they have a business with diversified sources of income. Not only do they depend on what they steal from those who attack, but they also develop and sell technology for those who want to go into business. Espinosa explains that “large companies dedicated to this create attack software and sell it on the dark web to any individual. Just by acquiring this software, an ordinary person can start attacking constantly. “

The cost to pay for these hacks being so high, why do the statistics of cyberattacks in the world continue to rise? For Espinosa, no is taking the threat seriously. “Both companies and governments are not investing enough in tools to protect themselves and do not assess, as they do with other types of imponderables, the enormous losses and dangers to which they are exposed if they are targeted.” Although the economic losses are devastating, the worst has not yet happened because we have not witnessed withering or massive attacks of this kind carried out by terrorist cells. Given how easy it is to access software to hack others, if the world does not adopt a proactive attitude in prevention, that reality will not take long to materialize.

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