What is Cyber Extortion?
Cyber Extortion is just what the word means. It is extortion – the use of threats and force to obtain money – only in the virtual world. It is an online crime in which the hacker holds your data, website, computer systems, files, and/or other sensitive information hostage until you meet their demands for payment. As a layman, you can best understand this by thinking of this as a virtual kidnapping – of your sensitive information which has serious ramifications – and the kidnapper has similar ransom demands.
Cyber crimes are proliferating not just in the sheer number, but also in the creative methods with which hackers take hold of the data: cyber extortion has evolved and can take the form of ransomware, distributed denial-of-service, privacy invasion, cloud security breach, cyber warfare, Internet of Things (IoT) vulnerability exploitation. You don’t have to be intimidated by the names as much as you should be intimidated by how much potential such rogue actions have to paralyze your digital identity or that of your organisation/business/workplace.
India has been hard-by phishing attacks that have targeted naive individuals for a while now. Hackers have become more sophisticated in their modus operandi too. So now they don’t deceive the gullible user into sending them money, instead, they blatantly demand huge sums. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the World Economic Forum now rates a large-scale breach of cybersecurity as one of the five most serious risks facing the world today. India now features on the list of top 20 countries impacted by cybercrime. It may not seem like that, but your digital presence is at a far greater risk than you believe.
The Evil Process
Cyber extortionists have used several tactics over a period of time to break into your systems and crippling you until you pay the ransom. Here are a few tactics you should look out for:
One tactic is ransomware, which involves a hacker tricking one of your employees into clicking on a link or file within an email message. This activates the ransomware, which spreads throughout your network, encrypting your servers and data so you can’t access applications and files. The only way to restore access is to pay the hacker for an encryption key.
So-called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks involve hackers using a network of infected computers to send an overwhelming flood of messages to your web server, which effectively takes it out of service until the messaging stops.
Ransomware is your worst digital security nightmares. This involves a hacker tricking you into clicking a link that activates the ransomware, spreading throughout your system or network, and encrypting them to you cannot access them. More often than not, the demand comes in terms of crypto currencies.
Less popular, but email-based extortions are very simply blackmailing tactics threatening to expose personal information to public or family.
Phishing attacks entail emails sent by hackers disguised as someone trustworthy and then go on to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and bank and card details, etc.
Cloud Security Breach
Storing data on the cloud might sound tempting, but it comes at a high risk of breach by organised cyber crime groups. These hackers can steal reams of information.
E-commerce Data Breach
Even though e-commerce sites are stepping up their security game, cyber criminals exploit the vulnerabilities to access highly valuable customer information stored on such sites. This means they can obtain customer credentials, their financial details, contact details etc.
Internet of Things (IoT) Vulnerability Exploitation
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks have been launched by cyber criminals, and IoT is being used in several smart home systems, security systems, among other places. A small vulnerability in one device can put the entire network at risk.
What’s the solution?
The skills and modus operandi are evolving, but the threat of cyber extortion remains persistent and consistent.
It is important that you educate yourself, your peers and employees about the threats and exercise precautions, but with increasing sophistication of technology, these might not suffice to protect you.
How can you protect against it?
You don’t want to live under the constant anxiety of losing all your data at the hands of some miscreants. Which is why insurance providers have now expanded their portfolio to include Cyber Insurance policies.
Bringing an industry-first cyber liability cover, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance has devised a Cyber Insurance policy to provide coverage against financial losses that can be caused by malware attacks, cyberstalking, email spoofing and phishing, identity theft and many such cyber-related risks. The covers range from Rs.1 Lakh to Rs. 1 Crore and enable you to stay protected from and mitigate potential financial loss from cyber extortion. You can easily avail an individual cyber insurance policy by Bajaj Allianz General Insurance on Finserv MARKETS. It is important to have a cushion to fall back on, during such trying times.
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