Why Plummeting Cryptocurrency Values Are Threatening Your Cybersecurity (And What to Do About It)

In the last year or so, we’ve gotten client reports of a dramatic increase in emails that include user passwords and threaten to lock up their computers, expose porn viewing habits, or otherwise make their lives miserable. Often the password is an old one, and the message can be ignored If you change your passwords regularly. But that’s not always the case, and some people—and businesses—are alarmed by the messages and particularly susceptible to these threats.

Growing Scammer Resources

Why the sudden increase in this type of malware? Blame it on the steep declines in the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

When cryptocurrency prices were high, some individuals bought dozens or even hundreds of computers to “mine” Bitcoin and other currencies (mining requires performing thousands of computer operations for each “coin”). With the value crash there are now an unfortunate number of bad actors looking for a profitable way to employ a tremendous number of underutilized computers. That’s a major resource to allow them to send out millions of threatening emails; they can purchase a list of passwords and emails, on the dark net, courtesy of the many large cyberattacks that occur each year (e.g. Verizon, Home Depot).

Bottom line: Hundreds of thousands of new computers have recently connected to the internet, with the sole purpose of breaking into other people’s computers.

Protecting Yourself and Your Business

How can you properly protect yourself and your business? These are some of the first steps:

  1. Change passwords regularly, and use a password manager. Strong passwords, changed often, are an important protection. It’s challenging to keep track of dozens of passwords. ”Solving” this by using the same passwords on multiple account or using short passwords that are easy to memorize just sets you up as an easy target to hack. Password managers provide the help humans need to keep track of multiple random combinations of 14 to 16 characters. Consider Last Pass, Dashlane, or Keeper. See https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-password-managers,review-3785.html for more information.

  1. Back up your password manager online. If your password manager stores data only on your computer, and your computer is encrypted by ransomware, you’ve lost all your passwords. Take advantage of your password manager’s online back-up feature, or back up your password manager data as part of your overall cloud management backup.

  1. Use an online service to back up your data. You’ll be able to recover your data whether you have a computer crash or are the victim of a ransomware attack. Carbonite, Backblaze, and Idrive offer both personal and business back up services. See https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-cloud-backup,review-2678.html for more.

  1. Encrypt your laptops. Laptops go everywhere, and if one is lost or stolen, a simple logon password may not offer sufficient protection. Some tools will allow you to wipe a lost computer when it is connected to the internet; encrypting the entire hard drive provides protection against the savvy thief who knows they shouldn’t make that connection until they’ve gotten what they want from your machines. Your encryption key is stored in the cloud with your security software vendor.

  1. Be leery of household devices that connect to the internet. The internet of things allows bad actors to use your pet monitor or nanny-cam to find out what’s going on in your house or office, and break into your hardware. Most people don’t change the password on their WiFi routers, update their router software, or configure their routers for maximum security. Now that you know the risk, you won’t be one of them.

  1. Next generation security: Of course you already have anti-malware software on all of your PCs and mobile devices. Now you need a cloud networking monitoring system that will tell you if something goes wrong with your security set-up. You’ll get alerts if settings are wrong, as well as alerts when you need to install security and other software patches.


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