The stereotype for a hacker is a guy in a hoodie typing green letters on a black screen in a dark room, but times are changing. Now, killware can be used to harm or kill people physically. That raises the stakes to a whole new level.
They use their computer knowledge to target your device and gain access to your information or hold your files hostage. If you fall victim to a ransomware attack, there are two ways it can go. First, hackers can lock your device and encrypt it. The only way to reverse that is to pay a lump sum of money, usually in cryptocurrencies.
Secondly, they can threaten to release your information online or sell it to another hacker. Again, the only solution is to pay the price.
What is killware?
Killware is the most dangerous form of a cyberattack in existence. Its main goal is to cause physical damage and even death to victims unless specific requirements are met. The healthcare industry is a vital target since hackers exploit the link between the physical and computer systems.
If someone is on life support, then any system downtime could be the factor that influences life and death. Hospitals are the main target because there’s nothing worse than preventing critical patients from getting treatment if you want to make a point or money.
One such attack happened in Alabama, where killware was used to cause a computer outage. Even though healthcare was the first victim, that doesn’t mean that other sectors are secure. A hacker tried to poison the entire water supply in Florida. The attack only took seconds, and more than 50 000 lives were saved because a worker noticed the action.
Read: Cybersecurity Risk: What It Is and How Can It Be Reduced
How does it work?
A few years ago, the only thing that could connect to the internet was a computer. The technology progressed to laptops, smartphones, fridges, toasters, and air conditioning units. Now you could be on the way home and turn on your AC with your phone.
The same technology is used in hospitals. Doctors can now check on their patients from their phones because an increasing amount of equipment is joining the Internet of Things. But there’s a catch.
Even though devices are becoming more convenient to use, connecting them to the internet exposes them to many risks. Cyber attackers have exploited baby cameras, garage doors, locks, and phones. But medical equipment leaves room for killware to enter and do physical damage to other people.
Since these types of attacks are new, there’s no way to figure out their motivation. Ransomware is used for financial gain. Killware can be used to foster terrorism or cyber warfare. It’s a real risk that organizations need to consider.
Read: How To Avoid These 4 Common Cyber Security Mistakes
How can you protect yourself?
These new attacks are the same as regular malware and ransomware. Hackers will try to breach your password, get your IP, plant a virus, or force you to click on a spam link. Being aware of their go-to strategies is one thing, but protecting yourself needs a bit more work.
First of all, you need to set up strong passwords. That’s rule number one. If your password contains less than six characters, it can be breached in a couple of seconds. The longer it is, the better. That’s why experts suggest using passphrases. Using a sentence makes it almost impossible for hackers to use a brute force approach and guess it. Adding in numbers and special characters is even better. Do this for your network and all of the IoT devices connected to it.
You should also get a VPN as an added layer of protection. Revealing your IP is a significant vulnerability and safety hazard in the online world. This is especially true if you’re using public Wi-Fi networks regularly. Type “what is my IP” in any search engine and see how much information you’re giving away. Hackers can see the same thing. VPNs serve to hide your IP address, which helps you browse the net privately and without prying eyes looking at your browser history.
Next comes an antivirus program. Even though some VPN services offer file scanning before you download them, antivirus programs are better at the moment. A VPN and antivirus combination is a must if you’re working in a healthcare facility. The same thing is true for anything related to the safety and security of human lives.
Finally, you need to avoid falling for scams, phishing attacks, and spam emails. If you get an email saying that your distant relative died and you need to enter your credit card details to receive millions of dollars, block the sender. Always check emails for typos, and don’t download anything that’s not from a credible source.
Read: 6 Cybersecurity Strategies for Handling Fraud and Data Breaches in Business
What does the future hold?
There’s a high chance that killware attacks will be on the rise, just like the increase in other cyberattacks. Ethical hackers and security agencies are actively trying to mitigate the problem and increase defenses. The only thing you can do is protect yourself and the people around you by sharing tips on how to be safe online.
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