Turf wars between rival street gangs are nothing new. They all want a piece of the penny-ante crime that runs rampant through the areas of town they fight for control over. But while they’re busy shooting and stabbing each other another breed of gangs is making the big money without the risk of being killed in a drive-by. These gangs prefer sitting at home in their boxer shorts and they aren’t restricted by neighborhood boundaries. All they need is a computer, the internet, and some highly sophisticated ransomware.
What began as a hack here and a hack there has developed into a professional and complex crime ring of cyber-gangs. These gangs run their organizations as businesses and have even gone as far as to establish a system of arbitration between themselves to settle disputes like the finely refined ladies and gents they are.
Cyber-gangs hack into a companies computer system and then encrypt the information so it can no longer be read or understood until the company coughs up some money to have it un-encrypted. It’s corporate kidnapping, and in all too many cases, it isn’t reported under the threat of being hijacked again.
The U.S., Australia, and the U.K. in particular have seen a huge rise in the number of attacks. Western nations have vowed to crack down on the illegal activity but as of yet progress remains to be seen.
Last year a cyber gang created widespread panic when they seized the largest meatpacking plant in the world and demanded millions, which they ultimately received. Then they shut down a critical U.S. fuel pipeline for which they were handsomely rewarded for their efforts.
The one thing that is known about these gangs is that they are primarily located in Russia which makes it much more difficult to combat the growing issue. Rumor has it that Putin himself is funding the gangs and who would be surprised? As ransomware developers continue to increase their software strength and abilities, imagine…well…just imagine.
The United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre reported that some of the larger and more sophisticated gangs have established 24/7 customer service hotlines to better assist their victims with expediting their ransom payments. Opportunity in this growing career field is abundant. Software developers, hackers, negotiators, banking experts, and pleasantly voiced telephone phone operators are always in demand.
John Hultquist, vice president of intelligence analysis at what some consider to be the worlds leading cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, said, “The criminal marketplace is incredibly, incredibly efficient and constantly evolving. The fact that they can operate like this, it’s evidence of our failure to get a good grip on this problem.”
Ransomware hackers have already infiltrated 14 out of 16 critical U.S. infrastructure sectors. They wormed their way into agriculture and technology sectors as well as paying a visit to the defense industrial base. And that safer alternative to keeping personal data on your home computer, the elusive cloud? It’s no longer safe or elusive.
National Security Agency Cybersecurity Director under the Biden administration, Rob Joyce, has done nothing about the problem other than stating the obvious. “When critical infrastructure is held at risk by foreign hackers operating from a safe haven in an adversary country, that’s a national security problem.” Duh.
The Russians have launched an invisible all-out war against industrial nations with a particular focus on the U.S., and we’re getting crushed.