A New Hacking Trend? USB Drives

If you receive a mysterious USB drive in your mailbox- don’t open it!

In Australia, residents have been receiving unmarked USB drives in their mailboxes. Upon plugging in these drives, users see what appears to be a promotional offer from Netflix or another streaming service.

Those who proceeded with the installation found that it didn’t contain free entertainment, but rather infectious ransomware.

In more recent years, ransomware has become an ever-increasing threat. Viruses are used to steal data and use IT machines for nefarious purposes. Ransomware can give criminals an immediate payday when someone is successfully infected. Ransomware works by encrypting files stored on the machine and unlocking payment methods stored within the machine.

Moral of the story: If you receive an unmarked USB in your mailbox… Throw it away!


October: National Cyber Security Month

The popularity of social networking sites continues to increase, especially among teenagers and young adults. The nature of these sites introduces security risks, so you should take certain precautions.

While the majority of people using these sites do not pose a threat, malicious people may be drawn to them due to the accessibility and amount of personal information that’s available. The more information malicious people have about you, the easier it is for them to take advantage of you. Predators may form relationships online, and then convince unsuspecting individuals to meet them in person. That could lead to a dangerous situation. The personal information can also be used to conduct a social engineering attack. Using information that you provide about your location, travel plans, hobbies, interests, and friends, a malicious person could impersonate a trusted friend or convince you that they have the authority to access other personal or financial data.

What can you do?

  • Limit the amount of personal information you post
  • Remember that the Internet is a public resource 
  • Be wary of strangers
  • Be skeptical
  • Evaluate your settings and privacy policies – Take advantage of a site’s privacy settings.
  • Be wary of third-party applications
  • Use strong passwords, and change them frequently
  • Keep software, particularly your web browser, up to date
  • Use and Maintain anti-virus software · Be cognizant of the company you keep. If you receive strange or unusual requests from ‘friends’ it is possible their account may have been compromised or cloned.

October: National Cyber Security Month

Ransomware is a category of malicious software that can literally hold computers hostage until a ransom is paid. Across the world, thousands of computers are impacted by this malware. The virus will digitally lock (encrypt) the files on a computer rendering the pictures, spreadsheets, and other documents completely inaccessible to the user.

Ransomware usually propagates via infected email attachments, website downloads, and USB drives. Following infection, the malware encrypts all files on the computers’ hard drive and any connected network drives. Those files remain encrypted and inaccessible until a ransom payment is made. Often, the malicious actor places a “self-destruct timer” to instill a sense of urgency in the victim and threatens that if ransom is not paid by a certain date, the files will be inaccessible forever. Victims that do not have adequate data backups have a decision to make: pay the ransom or lose their documents. Many times, even if the ransom is paid, the criminals do not remove the encryption and in some cases, ask for more ransom payments.

BIT has, unfortunately, had to rebuild an agency computer compromised by ransomware. Coincidentally, we have seen many email messages with malicious ransomware-infected attachments. Efforts to fight ransomware continue in information technology and law enforcement departments worldwide. Nearly a year ago the FBI and Interpol had been provided the decryption keys for files locked by a specific ransomware application This success followed the public issuance of an indictment against a Russian hacker who was a primary contributor to the development of many ransomware applications. This victory was short lived, however, as newer versions of that ransomware and closely related clones of that software, such as CryptoWall and TorrentLocker, are back in business.

So how can you help prevent a ransomware infection?

  • Don’t open or click on links in unsolicited emails, and don’t download files from untrusted sources.
  • Do not use free or found USB drives.
  • Backup, backup, backup! BIT regularly backs up data stored on network drives. However, individual files stored on a computer are not backed up by BIT. Make sure to backup your files on your home computers.