Posts

  • According to a new study by Coveware, cocaine trafficking in 1992 and ransomware in 2021 share similar profitability metrics; both activities carry +90 percent profit margins per unit. The major difference lies in the risk taken by the actors.
  • In 1992, every two kilos of cocaine trafficked resulted in one person arrested. Every four kilos of cocaine trafficked resulted in one person killed.
  • The survey sheds light on why cybercrimes are increasing and why ransomware cybercriminals launch direct attacks against businesses that indirectly impact individuals whose data becomes the hostage.
  • To learn about recent data compromises, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime, data breach or want to learn more ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Say Hello to My Little Friend

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for November 12, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week, we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we explore a theoretical question: which would you rather be – a drug trafficker in 1992 or one of the ransomware operators in 2021. Don’t answer just yet because we are going to do the math.

Crime in the popular culture of the 1980s and early 1990s was fueled by the cocaine trade. Crockett & Tubbs were cops running around Miami in flashy clothes and flashier cars while Al Pacino’s Tony Montana uttered the memorable catchphrase that gives us the title of today’s episode – Say Hello to my little friend.

In Scarface, as in the real world, a life of crime seemed glamorous until the shooting started. Sure, there was lots of money, but there were also some pretty serious downside risks too.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Being Drug Dealers

Coveware, the cybersecurity company specializing in ransomware recovery, has done us all a favor and compared the relative advantages and disadvantages of being a drug dealer in the early 1990s – before the rise of cybercrime – or one of the ransomware operators today.

Let’s start with our friend Tony Montana, a purveyor of the refined coca leaf.

You’re the boss and you demand your team meet certain key performance indicators (KPIs) that you use to manage the business.

Your base unit of product is the kilogram of cocaine, and you generate $60,000 for each “key” sold. That key costs you $5,000 to produce and prepare for sale, including marketing and distribution costs. That leaves you with a cool $55,000 in net profit for a margin of 91 percent. Not too bad, considering you are dealing in a cash business with no taxes.

However, there are downside risks to your upside potential. There is a 50/50 chance you’re going to be arrested and sent to prison. There is a 25 percent chance you will be killed in a hail of gunfire or by ingesting your own product. The barrier to entry is also very high since you will likely have to kill someone or several someone’s to take the top spot in your illegal pharma empire.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Being Ransomware Operators

Now, let’s look at the current crime wave sweeping the world – ransomware. You and your hoodie-wearing clan have a base unit of measurement of an attack against a company. That company may hold the data of many different companies or individuals that you hold hostage unless a ransom is paid. A single attack generates an average of $140,000 in late 2021, according to Coveware. However, the raw material cost is only $2,500. Your net income before paying your pirate’s share to your crew is $137,500, or a positive margin of 98 percent.

Like our fictional drug dealer, there are downsides to being ransomware operators. However, unlike our cocaine peddling friend, you only face a one (1) in 8,000 chance of going to jail. Your one in four chance of dying from lead poisoning as a drug dealer goes to zero, and your barrier to entry is limited only by your technical skills and a conscience.

I ask again, which would you rather be – a rich drug pusher under constant threat of arrest and death, or one of the filthy rich ransomware operators who, with decent skills and a safe harbor outside the U.S., can have a long career free from any serious threat of jail or early demise.

Findings Illustrate Why Cybercrimes Are on the Rise

This discussion is not intended to make light of the very serious issue of ransomware. Instead, it is to explain why cybercrimes are increasing and why ransomware operators (cybercriminals) launch direct attacks against businesses that indirectly impact individuals whose data becomes the hostage. It’s easy to get in the business, you can make scads of money, and generally speaking, no one shoots at you.

Until we can find a way to disrupt this business model, Thomas Anderson – respectable citizen by day – the hacker Neo by night – will continue to be the role model for this generation of criminal kingpins.

Contact the ITRC

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to join us next week for our sister podcast, the Fraudian Slip, when we talk about protecting yourself from the latest retail fraud scams this holiday season with Julie Ferguson of the Retail Merchants Council and ITRC CEO Eva Velasquez. Be sure to join us next time for another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

  • A new report from Intel 471 reveals that cybercriminals are going after one-time passwords, known as OTPs.
  • The attackers deceive people into giving them a one-time password or other verification codes via a mobile device, which the criminals use to steal money from the now compromised account.
  • Also, do not share personal information with anyone you do not know until you verify they are who they claim to be.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime or a data breach, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.  

Nice Things

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s)Weekly Breach Breakdown for October 1, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we dig into a troubling development that we all kind of knew was coming but maybe didn’t want to admit it. Cybercriminals are finding ways to steal those one-time passwords you send to your phone by text. 

This is why we can’t have nice things in our adult world. Every time someone comes up with a new way of protecting our personal information from the grubby little fingers of threat actors, the criminals find a new way to steal our data. That seems to be the case when it comes to two-factor authentic education, also known as multifactor authentication, or MFA.

New Report Shows Cybercriminals are Targeting One-Time Passwords

This week, a cybersecurity research team at Intel 471 issued a report that noted, “Two-factor authentication is one of the easiest ways for people to protect any online account.” Now, criminals are trying to circumvent that protection. Cyber thieves are using various tactics to gain account information, including impersonating banks and legitimate services on phone calls.

Using social engineering methods, the attackers deceive people into giving them a one-time password or other verification code via a mobile device, which the crooks then use to steal money from the now compromised account.

The criminals buy easy-to-use applications that send a potential victim a text message requesting their phone number. Once a target’s phone number has been entered into a chat message, the malicious application takes over from there. The researchers at Intel 471 found that about 80 percent of people targeted by cybercriminals will end up providing their information to threat actors, allowing them to drain the money from their accounts.

Variations on these OTP attack schemes include:

  • Specialty software that targets accounts on social media.
  • Media networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
  • Financial services like PayPal and Venmo.

Even an automated tool allows an attacker to make any phone call that appears to be from a specific bank.

Once a call is answered, the criminals use a script to trick potential victims into sharing information such as ATM, PINs, credit card verification codes or one-time passwords. Quoting the Intel 471 researchers again, while SMS and phone-based one-time password services are better than nothing, criminals have found ways to socially engineer their way around the safeguards. It was always a matter of time before the bad guys found a way around this layer of defense in these particular instances. The weak security link is the user who willingly gives information to someone they believe to be a legitimate representative at a company where they do business.

To Avoid an OTP Text Scam, the ITRC Advises You To

  • Always verify the legitimacy of any contact you do not initiate, whether it is a phone call, email, text message or a social media instant message.
  • Don’t share any personal information with anyone you do not personally know and trust until you verify the person contacting you is who they claim to be. Also, make sure they have a good reason for asking you for information they should already know.

Today is the first day of Cyber Security Awareness Month. The ITRC has a full list of activities planned, including participating in industry events and special guests on our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will also issue two very important reports this month. Next week, on October 6, we’ll publish our Q3 Data Breach Analysis that shows how many new data compromises were reported in the past three months and what the trends tell us.

On October 27, we’ll issue our very first Business Aftermath Report. As a companion to our longtime report on the impact of identity crimes on consumers, the Business Aftermath Report will look at what happens to small businesses and solopreneurs after a security breach, a data breach or both.

Contact the ITRC

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.