Hackers are hitting where it hurts

The new two-pound MacBook is on display in a demo room following an Apple event Monday, March 9, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Ransomware is insidious software that is designed to block access to a computer system until a certain amount of ransom is paid, usually in bitcoins, a digital currency that is transferred without the need of a central bank.

The infection usually comes in the form of an email containing an invoice or a shipment notification with a link attached. Once the recipient clicks on the link, their files are almost immediately locked.

Ransomware attacks are nothing new. In fact, they have been going on for years with the first known attack taking place in 1989.

In 2014, several Apple users, most of them located in Australia, were affected by the malware, and more than 225,000 iPhone users had their Apple accounts stolen in 2015.

Palo Alto Networks named this “the largest known Apple account theft caused by malware.” The malware was only able infect jailbroken iPhones due to the phone’s file systems becoming unrestricted.

In recent years, more and more companies and institutions have fallen victim to these computer system hacks. According to a 2014 report by Symantec, an antivirus software company, ransomware attacks went from 100,000 in January 2013 to 600,000 by December of that same year.

Within the last month, 14 hospitals were hit, along with a café in Maryland, and Apple Inc’s Mac computers. Fortunately, most of them were able to stop the attack before it retrieved all of their files.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, which first noticed the attack on February 5th, was not so lucky. The medical center ended up paying $17,000 worth of bitcoins to hackers in order to regain control of their computer system.

Ryan Kalembar, senior vice president for cybersecurity strategy at Proofpoint, told CBS news that medical records are extremely valuable on the black market, potentially more valuable than an individual’s credit card information or identity. If hackers start to observe their target’s data before encrypting it, they may be able to identify, not only what kind of data it is, but also to whom it belongs to. This would not only raise ransom demands, but also enable hackers to decode and sell the data.

The newest ransomware that is being used is known as MSIL/Samas.A. This malware is able to encrypt the data of entire networks rather than one computer at a time.

The FBI has asked businesses and software security experts for help in its investigation of this newly developed malware.

People who make a difference in the face of ISIS chaos

In mid February as many as 300 Syrian Christians were abducted by ISIS militants during a fight for power along the Khabur River in Hassakeh province. This incident followed the simultaneous beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians who were abducted earlier in the month.
Continue reading “People who make a difference in the face of ISIS chaos”

Losing Kobani a Major Hit to ISIS

The war with ISIS is expected to last years, according to US officials, but the news isn’t all about beheadings, executions, and terror on the part of ISIS. The U.S. led international coalition has gained ground. Continue reading “Losing Kobani a Major Hit to ISIS”

ISIS – The war wages on

The term “jihad” is likely to become more common as ISIS wages its war, seeking sympathizers to grow their ranks. What does jihad actually mean? According to dictionary.com, a jihad is “any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle.” The Islam interpretation means “a holy war against infidels undertaken by Muslims in defense of the Islamic faith,” or “the personal struggle of the individual believer against evil and persecution.” Continue reading “ISIS – The war wages on”

Parliament Hill Shooting

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 32 year-old from Quebec, shot and killed ceremonial guard Corporal Nathan Cirillo on Oct. 22 before moving toward Parliament Hill’s Centre Block, where he was killed while exchanging gunfire with security. A video made by the shooter has been collected by police, in which he explains the motive for the shooting by saying it is an “action in the name of Allah and in response to Canadian foreign policy.” Continue reading “Parliament Hill Shooting”

ISIS: Terror Leads to Terror

“Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.” John Adams.

ISIS is expected to be a threat for the long haul as they attempt to gain more territory and behead more prisoners. An International Coalition, led by the United States, has been established, bringing more than 20 countries together to fight against ISIS. Twenty two targets have been hit as a result of these Coalition forces offering fighter planes, Tomahawk missiles and Raptor bombing runs over Syria. Continue reading “ISIS: Terror Leads to Terror”

Implications of a Scottish Independence

Residents of Scotland participated in an independent referendum on Sept. 18 to determine if their country would depart from the United Kingdom and, thereby, gain autonomy. Of the nearly four million votes on the matter, 55% chose to not separate from the United Kingdom. This referendum, while it did not succeed, will not be the last vie for Scottish independence. Continue reading “Implications of a Scottish Independence”

ISIS – What you need to know

ISIS…or is it ISIL? Perhaps you recognize the names from passing news stories. Maybe you’ve heard and are familiar with some of the horrible things they are responsible for. Or, perhaps it’s one of those things that you’ve simply chosen not to know about. The old phrase, “What I don’t know can’t hurt me,” is a philosophy you hold to. But in this case, it’s very important to be informed. Continue reading “ISIS – What you need to know”