5 Steps to Protect Yourself From Cyberattacks

Dear Rich Lifer,

A surge in high-profile cybercrimes has shocked the nation. 

Targets range from Colonial Pipelines, the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., to JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker… it seems no victim is powerful enough to evade today’s hackers. 

Executives and cyber officials have called on the U.S. government and companies to take concrete steps to combat these cyberattacks. 

Kevin Mandia, chief executive of cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc., warned: “Pharmaceuticals, hospitals, healthcare, public companies, organizations that don’t have the talent and skills to defend themselves — they’re getting sucker punched.” 

And what’s worse: these attacks are having a dangerous ripple effect on American citizens. Consider the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, which resulted in the pipeline being shut down for six days! This caused a run on gasoline, pushing prices to record heights and leaving thousands of stations devoid of fuel.

Rob Joyce, director of the National Security Agency’s cybersecurity directorate, reflected on the attack, stating, “It was a moment where I think a lot of America woke up to the reality that the cyber realm and the physical realm are becoming increasingly intertwined.” 

Today, we’ll update you on all these shocking developments… and give you five tips you can take today to protect yourself. 

Ransom Retrieved 

Colonial paid $4.4 million in ransom (75 bitcoin) to get the code to unlock its data and systems. Now, in breaking news, U.S. authorities have reportedly recovered roughly $2.3 million (64 bitcoin) of the ransom.

A law-enforcement operation seized 64 bitcoin from a virtual wallet, alleged to be the proceeds from the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. 

Chief Executive Officer of Colonial Pipeline Joseph Blount has said that he will continue to provide federal agencies with “intelligence and learnings” so that other infrastructure companies can improve their cyberdefenses and fight back against attackers. 

The FBI had tracked Colonial’s ransom payment across several bitcoin addresses in May and on Monday, obtained a seizure warrant from a magistrate judge in northern California that allowed them to recover the bitcoin.

Law-enforcement officials have the ability to work with private-sector analysts who can track cryptocurrency transactions across public ledgers known as blockchains. Analysts are able to reliably trace ransom payments by mapping clusters of virtual wallets and cross-referencing their transactions with intelligence about hacks.

Sujit Raman, a former senior Justice Department official, explained that “because bitcoin transactions are available on a publicly distributed ledger, in many cases law enforcement can trace bitcoin payments and track stolen funds. When cybercriminals use bitcoin, that can sometimes be more traceable than just using cash or fiat currency.”

Ransomware and Diplomacy 

Ransomware is defined as a type of malware from cryptovirology that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. This particular kind of cyberattack has become both a national security threat and a diplomatic issue for the U.S. 

Perpetrators of ransomware attacks tend to operate out of countries like Russia and North Korea, both of which are unwilling to extradite the attackers. 

President Biden and other officials have stated that although it appears the Colonial Pipeline attack was carried out by a Russian criminal group known as DarkSide, there is no evidence that the Russian government was involved in the attack. 

However, Biden has condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for allowing these criminal hackers to target the U.S. without consequence. Biden and Putin are scheduled to meet at their summit in Geneva on June 16, where Biden is expected to push for an agreement to curtail ransomware gangs. 

In congressional testimony on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, stated, “One of the things that President Biden will make clear to President Putin when he sees him is that states cannot be in the business of harboring those who are engaged in these kinds of attacks.” 

And while the larger issue of ransomware and other cyberattacks will require concentrated government efforts, there are things we, as individuals, can do to protect ourselves from hackers…

Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from Hackers 

The recent rise in cybercrime is a reminder to take steps to protect yourself.

Here are some tips all of us need to follow:

  1. Use a two-factor authentication or two-step verification whenever you can, including with your banking apps, your Facebook and your Twitter accounts. All these applications allow you to enable additional security features, which will send a second form of verification to your phone or email. This way, even if a hacker gets access to your password, you are still protected.
  2. Along the same lines, don’t use the same password for all your accounts. We know this can be annoying and difficult, but using different passwords is one of the best ways to prevent being hacked. 
  3. Keep your systems up to date. For example, if you are getting alerts to update your Windows system or your Mac, it’s usually to add extra protection to your computer. The same rule applies for third-party systems like Java, Adobe, and Office documents. The bottom line is, when you see an update is available, do it!
  4. Protect your personal information. This may seem like a no-brainer, but remember, never give out sensitive information like your social security or credit card numbers to a random caller. A banker will never ask for this over the phone, and hackers tend to attempt to impersonate different organizations to get your personal information. When in doubt, call the institution itself to make sure you are speaking to an actual representative. 
  5. Be careful about how much you share publicly on the Internet. Hackers can look at your social media and use that information to learn your habits. If you always post at the same Starbucks or are writing about planned trips, hackers can use that information against you by taking the familiar and weaponizing it. 

Hopefully, these tips will keep you secure in this increasingly technological age. Staying on top of your own cybersecurity will help you keep your personal information safe from hackers and give you better peace of mind.

To a Richer Life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team

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