[Brand New] Welcome to Digital Crime & Digital Ransom

7th Jul 2017
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When I was watching Mr Robot on Amazon Prime Video a few weeks ago, I thought I was still watching an extension of sci-fi. In the serial the protagonist is a young punk hacker, who doses himself with 30mg of morphine and a bit of a wiz kid at cyber security. He comes to the lime light when he manages to thwart an attack from a megacorp called E Corp.

The character in the serial Elliot Alderson is a young man who lives in New York City and works at the cyber security company Allsafe as a security engineer. Constantly struggling with social identity dis-order and clinical depression, Elliot's thought process seems heavily influenced by paranoia and delusion. He connects to people by hacking them, which often leads him to act as a cyber-vigilante. He is recruited by a mysterious anarchist known as Mr. Robot and joins his team of activists known as fsociety. One of their missions is to cancel all consumer debt by destroying the data of one of the largest corporations in the world, E Corp (which Elliot perceives as Evil Corp), which also happens to be Allsafe's biggest client.

Now fiction is becoming reality.

When WPP was hacked yesterday the whole world was aghast. A trip to their website revealed a hurriedly put up message with bad punctuation, unusual for a company that is headquartered in the UK, the bastions of the English language.

Employees at WPP and Mondeléz, among other companies, arrived at work Tuesday to a rude suprise in the form of a digital ransom note on their locked PCs that demanded they pay up or lose all of their files.

Company staff with infected computers were greeted with a message saying that the user's files had been encrypted and that it would cost more than $300 in Bitcoin to free them, as part of a worldwide cyberattack.

This seems like the beginning of digital crime and digital ransom.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a digital payment system invented by an unknown programmer, or a group of programmers, under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. It was released as open source software in 2009.

The system is peer to peer, and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary. These transactions are verified by network nodes  and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Since the system works without a central repository or single administrator, bitcoin is called the first decentralized digital currency.

WPP and Mondeléz were among thousands of companies attacked with "ransomware," which can infect computer systems, phones, e-mail and other services. In this type of attack, the hacker typically asks for money to go away, and they are not looking to hack e-mails or steal data.

Major firms, airports and government departments in Ukraine have been struck by a massive cyber attack which began to spread across Europe on Tuesday afternoon.

Cybersecurity expert, Gerome Billois, explains how it works and how he thinks it found its way into major firm's software in this youtube video.

Tech thrillers are now coming to life. Welcome to Digital Crime and Digital Ransom.

This article was first published here on LinkedIn.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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