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61% were compromised by ransomware in 2016. Here’s how to stay safe

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According to the CyberEdge Group’s 2017 Cyberthreat Defense Report, a whopping 61% of organizations was compromised by a ransomware attack in 2016. Of those infected, over one-third of companies decided to pay extortionists to regain access to their data. Refusal was risky: even though 54% of those who refused to pay regained access to their data, 13% lost everything.

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File-encrypting malware is now as popular as ever, as it is also as profitable as ever. Recorded Future, a threat intelligence company, has recently stated ransom payments reached $1 billion last year. CyberEdge’s report specifies that the number of organizations falling prey to cyber criminals has been growing: from 70% in 2015 to 76% in 2016, and to 79% this year.

These numbers are corroborated by Kaspersky Labs, which estimates that one business is attacked every 40 seconds, and that an individual is hit every 10 seconds. Data is extremely precious for cyber criminals, and that led to some astounding high-profile cyber crimes and data breaches: even internet giants, such as Google and Yahoo, have been successfully attacked.

This culminates in a surge in security spending. Most of those involved in CyberEdge’s research – which surveyed 1,100 IT security personnel across the globe – agree that organizations are vulnerable because of low-security awareness among employees. One in five said Microsoft’s Office 365 doesn’t offer adequate security.

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Avoiding the ransom

The problem grew so much, businesses have been stockpiling bitcoin to face cyber extortion threats. This may make it look like avoiding the ransom is impossible – but not only do you need to avoid supporting this type of unlawful business, you also want to keep your hard-earned money. Some cybersecurity experts say paying the ransom is the way to go, as sometimes those who pay do not get their files back. Those who are trying to become financially free, however, don’t need cyber criminals trying to extort them.

Unless you work with very sensitive data, it is possible to avoid paying the ransom, to a certain extent, as according to Kaspersky labs there are ways to keep your data safe, even after the malware encrypts your files.

You should regularly backup your files, twice. Once in the cloud using a service like Dropbox or Google Drive, and once in a physical hard drive that can’t be compromised by cyber criminals. Even if extortionists encrypt every file in your computer and then delete them, you should still be fine, as long as your backup wasn’t connected to the network.

Email is the number one delivery vehicle for ransomware, according to cybersecurity firm Barkly. As such, avoid opening any suspicious email, and never open attachments from unknown senders.

Using a VPN when browsing the web will protect you from malware that targets online access points. Keep in mind; this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid suspicious emails and pop-up windows.

If you find out your computer is running an unknown process, immediately cut off your internet connection, and try to find out what is happening. If infected by old malware, there are free decryptors out there that will save you from paying the ransom.
ve you from paying the ransom.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Cybersecurity

Facebook Stock Has Best Day in Two Years as Zuckerberg Testifies

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Shares of Facebook Inc. (FB) gained on Tuesday, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before U.S. lawmakers over allegations of data misuse.

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Zuckerberg Gets Likes

Mark Zuckerberg apologized and defended his company on Tuesday as he appeared before a joint U.S. Senate committee hearing. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” the 33-year-old CEO said when questioned about Facebook’s misuse of user data.

Lawmakers grilled Zuckerberg on issues ranging from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to its failure in addressing provocative messages during the most recent Myanmar crisis. He took it all in stride, appearing confident and poised throughout the question-and-answer period (at least, that’s what professional PR experts quoted by Bloomberg had to say).

Zuckerberg took full responsibility not just for Cambridge Analytica, but for Facebook’s negligence in safeguarding consumer data. That said, Republican Senator from Iowa Chick Grassley sent a strong signal that new regulations are on the way.

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“The status quo no longer works,” said Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee. “Congress must determine if and how we need to strengthen privacy standards to ensure transparency and understanding for the billions of consumers who utilize these products.”

Wall Street Responds

The testimony resonated with Wall Street, as investors scooped up shares of the battered social media company. Facebook shares added 4.5%, their best in two years. By comparison, the S&P 500 Index gained 1.7% on Tuesday and the index’s technology component rose 2.5%.

The stock surge grew Zuckerberg’s personal fortune by $2.8 billion to $66 billion, according to Forbes. That makes him the world’s seventh richest person.

Despite the gain, FB is down almost 15% from its all-time high and its current price point lags behind the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. An RSI of 48 also signals weak underlying momentum for the social media stock.

Facebook’s Declining Usage

Facebook experienced a public backlash last month amid reports that a political research firm had scraped data on 87 million people. The revelation sparked a growing debate over Facebook’s privacy standards at a time when the company was battling a noticeable decline in usage.

The social media platform declined by roughly 50 million hours per day in the fourth quarter, or 5% overall. Meanwhile, independent research from a company named Edison found a steady drop in usage among Americans aged 12 and up.

While Zuckerberg has tried to spin the decline as a good thing, it’s apparent that the platform is experiencing fewer meaningful interactions, which partially explains recent efforts to transform the News Feed.

It remains to be seen how much damage the declines will do to top and bottom line results. Facebook is expected to report its quarterly earnings report Apr. 25. Analysts are expecting per-share earnings of $1.37 for the quarter, up from $1.04 the same time a year ago.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 343 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Cybersecurity

Facebook Admits It Has Failed to Protect User Privacy

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In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has had to come clean about its privacy standards. The company recently admitted that the data on most of its 2 billion users could be compromised by malicious actors, a strong sign that the social media giant is not only misusing consumer data, but failing to protect it.

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Data on the Loose

Facebook recently announced that it has removed a feature that allows users to search for people using email addresses or phone numbers. The feature, which accounts for 7% of all searches in some regions, is being discontinued over fears that malicious users were using it to “scrape” profiles.

Mike Shcroepfer, the company’s chief technology officer, issued the following statement on Wednesday:

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way. So we have now disabled this feature. We’re also making changes to account recovery to reduce the risk of scraping as well.”

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters that it was “reasonable to expect” that your information may have been accessed in this way.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which surfaced last month, blew the lid wide open on Facebook’s privacy standards. Since 2014, Cambridge Analytica legally obtained information on as many as 87 million Facebook users for the purpose of influencing elections. In the wake of the scandal, Zuckerberg is being summoned by U.S. Congress to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, currently scheduled for Apr. 11. The CEO has acknowledged that his company made mistakes, but this has largely failed to resonate with Facebook’s growing list of critics.

Facebook Tanks

Many say that Facebook has suffered irreversible damage since the scandal was brought to light. Faced with declining usage, severed business ties and a severe backlash from the public, Facebook shares have tanked more than 16% over the last three weeks.

Prices have fallen below the 50-day and 200-day simple moving averages, with the short-term average converging on the longer one. An RSI in the low-30s makes a strong case for Facebook’s bearish downturn, although current levels indicate that an oversold bounce is likely.

FB’s share price shed another 0.7% on Wednesday even as the major indexes gained. The S&P 500’s information technology index rose 1.4%, capping off a solid recovery for the market.

Along with the other so-called FAANG stocks, Facebook has been largely responsible for the recent tech rollover and subsequent turbulence on Wall Street. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet lost a combined $324 billion in market cap between Mar. 12 and Apr. 2.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 343 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Cybersecurity

NEM Theft Suggests Hacking Is More Lucrative than Mining

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The NEM Foundation has called off its search for the 523 million NEM tokens that were stolen from the Tokyo-based Coincheck exchange. Although the Foundation lauded the effectiveness of the search, the outcome proves yet again that cryptocurrency hackers are benefiting from the dark web, which provides an effective venue for laundering stolen funds.

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Search for Stolen Coins Ends

In a statement published Mar. 19, the NEM Foundation informed its community that it had disabled the tracking mosaic used to monitor the movement of XEM funds tied to the massive heist of Coincheck in January. According to the post, the search ended on Mar. 18.

The statement reads:

“Beginning March 18, the NEM.io Foundation has disabled the tracking mosaic that was put into place to monitor XEM movements from the Coincheck theft. This effort was effective at reducing the hacker’s ability to liquidate stolen XEM and provided law enforcement with actionable information. We don’t plan to release further details due to the sensitive nature of this investigation.”

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On. Jan. 26, hackers successfully made off with $530 million worth of XEM tokens, marking the biggest crypto heist on record. The theft propagated a new investigation into existing crypto exchanges by Japan’s Financial Services Authority (FSA). Domestic exchanges also announced plans to form a self-governing body to safeguard against illicit activity.

Hacked reported earlier this month that the Coincheck attackers had already laundered some 40% of the stolen NEM funds, primarily through the dark web. The stolen coins have reportedly made their way into exchanges in Japan, China and Canada.

Crypto Heists: A Growing Phenomenon

While the crypto economy has been highly lucrative for early adopters, cyber criminals have managed to steal huge sums of money. Unlike credit card fraud, the theft of major crypto exchanges has reshaped the digital currency market. This was most evident in 2014, when Mt Gox fell prey to a $480 million attack that eventually led to its demise.

As the Coincheck hack demonstrated, locating stolen funds and identifying perpetrators are extremely difficult. That said, NEM’s efforts to blacklist the tokens probably limited how much money the attackers were able to keep.

This brings us to an important question: is hacking more lucrative than legitimate crypto mining? To answer that question, we’ll begin by providing a rundown of the major crypto heists of the last four years.

Since 2014, hackers have made off with more than $1.3 billion in stolen coins. The biggest losses are as follows:

  • Coincheck: $530 million (2018)
  • Mt Gox: $480 million (2014)
  • Parity Wallet: $155 million (2017)
  • Bitfinex: $65 million (2016)
  • NiceHash: $63 million (2017)
  • DAO: $50 million (2016)
  • Tether: $31 million (2017)

For all of 2017, it is estimated that hackers stole nearly $400 million from ICOs. That’s roughly 10% of the total amount raised for the year.

Mining Profitability

Cryptocurrency mining has spearheaded a multi-billion-dollar industry. The recent crackdown on mining rigs in China means there is a large void in the market that several jurisdictions, including Canada and India, are rushing to fill. During the height of bitcoin’s surge, crypto miners earned roughly $240,000 every ten minutes. Miners now earn roughly half that, based on current price levels.

Of course, this doesn’t factor the cost of electricity, power consumption, hardware, manpower and other fees needed to operate a mining operation. These variables, combined with the unknown trajectory of crypto prices, make profitability a lot harder to gauge.

The yearly decline in profitability is also a critical, albeit elusive variable in pricing the success of a mining operation. This variable is tied to the number of miners that join the network – a figure that is extremely difficult to predict. Against this backdrop, 99bitcoins.com has developed a bitcoin mining calculator that provides simple guidance on whether a certain mining operation is profitable.

Other digital currencies provide a potentially more lucrative opportunity to join the mining business. For example, Monero can still be mined with a basic desktop computer. With an average block time of two minutes, users can mine the coin casually using the spare computing power of their home PC.

However, it appears that hackers have already taken over the Monero mining business. There are several recent cases of hackers embedding malware to hijack the computing power of other systems. The Australian government was also a victim of this hacking attempt.

Cryptomining is such a new phenomenon that there are few guidelines in place to ensure trust. Selecting a company to work with an a fair compensation model are two important questions every potential miner needs to consider.

As cryptocurrencies appreciate in value, the allure of cyber crime will continue to grow. As NEM, Mt Gox and other large-scale thefts demonstrate, criminals are succeeding in their quest to compromise online exchanges.

With respect to mining, profitability remains an elusive question, especially with the recent downturn in the market. That said, there are many alternative motivations involved in mining digital currency, including supporting the network, influencing the market and using additional revenues to fund other business operations.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 343 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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