How To Stop Data Hijacking In Its Tracks: The Secret To Beating Data Hijacking And Keeping Your Information Safe

Hackers have always been in the business of exploiting computer system vulnerabilities, however, a new virtual extortion scheme is escalating the stakes; hackers are now holding information hostage from businesses for ransom.

What Is Data Hijacking?

Ransomware, such as CryptoLocker and CryptoWall, can be easily installed on your computer by users accidentally opening up a file that is infected. Once the malware has infected the computer, the hackers will send a message to the computer starting a countdown to when the information will be destroyed and instructions on payment method in order to retrieve the data unharmed. Hackers use bitcoins, a digital currency that bypasses banks and clearinghouses, to receive payment as a way of remaining untraceable and anonymous. The  message can look something like this:

The Case That Everyone Is Talking About: Ashley Madison 

The most recent high-profile data hijacking case, the Ashley Madison hack, has made headlines over the past few weeks. In this case, the hacked data was not deleted but was distributed. As an online dating website with the tagline “life is short, have an affair”, it is not hard to understand how sensitive the data was in this particular case.  The attack has left 33 million accounts compromised, millions of users exposed and one very discredited company scrambling to fix this PR nightmare.

Is Your Data at Risk?

Don’t be mistaken, small businesses with less provocative data to breach are also at risk. Verizon published a Data Breach Investigation Report in 2014 which found that in 2013 alone there were 1,367 confirmed data breaches and 63,437 Security incidents throughout 95 countries around the world.

“60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster”  

Interview With A Company Effected By Data Hijacking

I spoke to a real estate and construction company (who did not want to be named) in Argentina who was hacked this past February. Federico Scher, an employee I spoke to from the company, explained that they had two servers, one that was backed up on the cloud and a second one that was only backed up on hard drive. Both servers were attacked, but the data backed up on the cloud was able to be recovered, while the data from the second server was successfully hijacked and held for ransom. Federico said that the hackers had hostage 7 years of data. The company contracted an outside data recovery company who was unable to restore the data. 

How Much $ Did The Hackers Ask For?

The company was instructed via e-mail to pay $3,500USD in order to receive the data back unharmed. While this may not seem like a lot of money for a business, in Argentina that amounts to 32596.72 Argentine Pesos according to the official exchange rate, and a whopping 54,075 Argentine Pesos according to the "blue dollar" rate. The blue dollar is Argentina's informal market (like the black market) and is the rate which most accurately represents the reality of the exchange. Federico also told me that a law firm where one of his friends works was also hijacked that same week and the hackers asked for 7,000 € in exchange for the data.

What You Can Do To Protect Your Google Apps Information

Make sure to follow these 3 tips to keep your data safe:

  1. Use a Cloud Backup/Restore system like Spanning Backup
Installing antivirus software is simply not enough - you need a system which allows you to backup and restore your information back to exactly how it was the moment before any malware had infected your system. Spanning Backup can do this for you.

A company with spanning can recover from an attack and be back in business within minutes of a security breach with just a click of a button and without having to be at the mercy of online criminals. For businesses, this is a life saver when it comes to compliance, reputation and credibility.

Not only will Spanning protect your company from data hijacking, but also from other common causes of data loss including insider threat, human error, and sync malfunctions.

Spanning is available for businesses operating on Google Apps as well as other SaaS applications such as Salesforce and Microsoft Office 365.

2. Always Choose A Complex Password
Don’t make the hacker’s job easy. Choose a password that follows these guidelines:
  • Make your password at least 8 characters in length
  • Do not use your name or company name in your password
  • Do not use the same password for multiple login accounts
  • Use a mix of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols
  • Try not to use a complete word. For example, instead of the password “Coffeelover123”, which includes all of the above criteria, a password like “C0ff33l0v3r!” will be more secure. Notice that in the second password example, the e’s have been substituted for 3’s and the o’s to 0’s to break up the word.

3. Don’t Open Anything Suspicious

A common path of infection is through e-mail. If you receive an email from an unfamiliar source, do not open it. Make sure to not open any attachments from unknown senders. Also be careful when browsing the web - think twice before clicking on advertisements.

And remember, If you don’t want your back up against the wall, back up your data with Spanning.
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