Headline March 04, 2016/ ''' *MASTER / HACKERS* - ANONYMOUS '''



*YOUR MONEY..............!OR YOUR DATA!'''

DIGITAL ROBBERY  -estimating profits from any type of  digital-crime, at the sweetest and very best of times is just too damn tricky.

Time enough to turn to turn to Dick Turpin for some splendid advice and brief, as he rides again, as a digital highwayman.

When internal e-mails and unreleased films from Sony  were leaked late last year, it was the origin of the hack [perhaps North Korea] and the embarrassing details...{withering comments on film stars} that made the news.

Less remarked was that the hackers had offered the media giant the chance to avoid the leak by acquiescing to its demands, which have not been made public.

Such Cyber-hold-ups are on the rise globally and go far beyond the big firms. More typical is the story of an Italian architectural draughtsman who turned to Digital forensic Bureau, a computer security firm in Turin-

After unwittingly downloading  ''ransomware''  a virus that encrypted all his files and posted an onscreen message demanding cash to unlock them.

Neither he nor the firm succeeded in cracking it. Faced with losing every file from his 14-year career, he capitulated, paid up and received a decryption key by e-mail.

Ransomware is here to stay, says Troels Oerting of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre. The emergence of Bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency that can be used anonymously, is a big part of the reason.

Most ransoms must be paid in it, and ransom notes typically explain how to buy it. Other online options such as PayPal require a credit or a debit card, or a bank account, making them riskier for criminals.

Many of the extortionists are from Russia; its authorities are uninterested in hunting them down. Their victims are everywhere. In Australia alone, estimates the Australian Crime Commission, a government agency- 

Between August and mid-December around 16,000 individuals, firms and government bodies paid a total of A$8m [$7m] after downloading ransomware.

Not all victims get their data back : some refuse to pay, and just as the 17th-century highwaymen sometimes took first money and then lives, their digital equivalents can renege on promises to unlock files.

Ransomware programmers keeps ahead of antivirus software by continually tweaking their code. 

Last year Europol and the  Dutch National High Tech Crime unit warned that ransomware   ''kits''   were available online, complete with tips on hiding profits from the authorities. And tricking people into downloading ransomware via an e-mail attachments is not the only approach.

Extortionists often pay associates to post   ''malvertising''   banner ads that lure traffic to websites that can take control of visiting computers, says Parisian security researcher known as Malekal.

Until recently a victim with some technical skill have been able to work around ransomware code, says Paolo Dal Checco of Digital Forensics Bureau.

Now speedy innovation by attackers means victims are usually outgunned. In June a team led by the  FBI seized computers that had been distributing CryptoLocker, a piece of ransomware. Specialists cracked it and created DeCryptoLocker, a free decrption service.

But CryptoWall, an immune version, quickly appeared. In September last, Nixu Corporation, a Finnish  IT-security firm, found a way to disable particularly fierce ransomware called  TorrentLocker.

But within weeks its makers had fixed the weakness that the firm had spotted.

According to Gregg Housh, an online marketer who is close to Anonymous, a hackers' collective, the average ransom has fallen from about $800 in the past few years as extortionists have found the sweet spot where there victims simply pay up.

In October, Maria Grazia Mazzolari, an official in Bussleno, a small 
town in northern Italy, paid a Euro510 ($644} ransom herself when the authorities balked at using taxes to reward criminals.

Shortly afterwards, the sheriff's office in Dickson County, Tennessee, paid $572 to recover thousands of files. Ransom have fallen even further in Paris, says Eic Larchveque.

Most victims who buy bitcoin at La Maison du Bitcoin, his shop, spend between Euro 160 and Euro 275. 

To collect ill-gotten gains in bitcoin, they must give a bitcoin account number: anyone can view transactions, though not the holder's identity. Accounts used by whoever held Bussoleno to ransom racked up $109,400 worth of bitcoin in the next eight days.

Ruses used by 17th-century travellers, such as hiding valuables, hiring guards and picking routes with care, have echoes today.

Web users should back up files, use antivirus software and firewalls, and avoid suspicious attachments and sites. But now, as then, the unwary and unlucky fall victim.................

And many see no choice but to pay.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and the Ecosystem 2011:

''' !WOW! Sharing - Is Caring '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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