Search results: bitcoin

Online Crime: Multimillion rand Bitcoin scam in SA being investigated by Hawks

27 Mar

If you were caught up in the Bitcoin hype and invested some of your hard-earned money in recent months, you might feel shocked and disheartened to learn that some of the investment companies “selling” Bitcoin and other crypto currencies were/are nothing more than a scam. (more…)

Bitcoin Mania: the Cryptocurrency Explained

9 Jan

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, founded in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. It is an entirely digital form of currency. Unlike physical currency, you cannot carry it around in your wallet.

Believe it or not, Bitcoin has established itself to a point where you can now buy groceries and clothing with it, just as you would with local currency. Alas, it is not widely accepted in most countries across the globe, only a select few.

Even after 8 years in circulation, Bitcoin is still a widely debated and rather controversial cryptocurrency which is completely divorced from governments and central banks. Managed by an online programme known as Blockchain, it keeps a well-managed online ledger of all digital transactions which take place.

Every time someone buys or sells Bitcoin, the transaction is lodged. Several hundred of these transactions are then logged as blocks. Blocks are not physically controlled by anyone as they are dispersed across all PCs throughout the globe. Only you can control your block via your very own Bitcoin wallet, which you get by purchasing Bitcoins.

Bitcoin set to skyrocket

Some experts believe this decentralised form of cryptocurrency will become highly popular in the next few years. This is due to the fact that it’s a quicker, cheaper and more reliable form of payment when compared to local currency which is highly affected by inflation and government regulation.

Additionally, there are a finite number of Bitcoins in circulation across the globe: 21 million to be exact. Every four years, a new number of Bitcoins is released, this amount is generally half of what was released in the previous cycle. As a result, the number of Bitcoins in circulation will approach 21 million, but never quite hit it.

Ultimately, this means Bitcoin will never experience inflation due to its finite amount. This however, worries critics as its popularity rises and the lack of availability becomes apparent in the future. This also means that a hack on the cryptocurrency could have catastrophic consequences for completely wiping out Bitcoin wallets, with a complete lack of reimbursement for money invested.

Can Bitcoin be hacked?

Instances of Bitcoin hacking have already taken place via Bitcoin exchanges. The actual value of Bitcoin cannot be manipulated or altered thanks to the nature of digital mining and Bitcoin’s cryptographic functions. However, experts explain it is possible to hack the networks and storage ‘locations’ of Bitcoin stores.

Hackers have taken to a popular cryptocurrency mining site known as Coinhive to access Bitcoin accounts and transactions.

Hacking concerns are also compounded by the fact that Bitcoin is not protected by government authorities or central banks. Due to the fact that Bitcoin is entirely digital, there is no sound security backing by any of these authorities.

This means that if your Bitcoin investment is hacked, there will very little chance of recovering your investments or claiming for your losses, unlike data when it is securely encrypted and backed-up regularly when stored in the Cloud!

Bitcoin has experienced a frenzy of growth in recent years, but none more so than 2017 with a 935% growth recorded in late November. With recent volatile fluctuations in performance, just how reliable is Bitcoin as a future form of currency? Watch this space!

Ransomware on the Rise in 2020 – Reduce the Risk

3 Mar

It’s really no surprise that ransomware is on the rise! Although, one would think that in 2020, with all the security measures available to thwart off the efforts of opportunistic cybercriminals, we would be wise to their attacks. The fact of the matter is that security is mostly fine. In most instances, it is human error that leads to a business’s downfall when it comes to ransomware.

How Ransomware Works

Most victims of ransomware seem completely taken aback by the fact that they have become the target of a ransom attack. What they don’t realise is that in most instances a computer is infected when a person visits an infected website, opens an email and clicks on a link, or downloads and opens links from unknown senders.

Emails with infected links and attachments are known as “phishing emails”, and more often than not it’s just a case of carelessness that leads to falling victim to one.

When the link is clicked and the ransomware is installed, it first finds somewhere to hide itself on the device. The virus typically presents as a system file which makes it difficult to remove as it looks like an essential file for the computer’s system.

The ransomware is designed to then seek out backups visible on the computer – such as saved documents and images. It then either encrypts the files and images or simply erases them. When the user tries to access their files, a display is shown demanding that a ransom is paid for the files to be decrypted. These days, the ransom is usually demanded in Bitcoin.

The Danger of Ransomware

Ransomware presents a business with both direct and indirect costs with the expense of replacing systems and installing new defence mechanisms. Further to that, the business runs the risk of losing customers at the time of the attack and might seem to be a security risk in the eyes of prospective customers. You could find yourself losing thousands or even hundreds of thousands of rand when you fall victim to ransomware.

How to Protect Your Business

Being prepared for malware and ransomware is important. In order to prepare your business for such attacks, you need to make sure that your employees are educated on the many risks they face.

They also need to be well aware of how ransomware or malware attacks present themselves. You should have a no-click or no-download policy on links and attachments in emails from unverified sources. You also need to have a process or strategy in place to help you recover from data loss in the event of a successful attack on your business.

While educating your staff members and being prepared for an attack are essential protection methods, there are other things that you can do as well:

  • Always ensure that you have the latest updated version of the systems you are running. These are designed to be able to fight off the latest attacks.
  • Securely backup all your important and sensitive data to a cloud backup service that is encrypted. This will mean that you don’t need to pay the ransom. You can clear the computer, pep up your security and then download your latest backup onto your device again. Easy!
  • Run malware security software on your devices on a regular basis.

Last Word

While ransomware is on the rise in 2020, it doesn’t have to impact on your life or your business too. Make sure that you are prepared for this year’s onslaught of attacks and rest assured that by simply being aware and taking precautions, you are that much safer out there in the online world.

Joburgers say “We Will Not Pay”, as City Uncovers Hacking Details

26 Nov

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists” is the type of thing you expect to hear on a fast-paced, action movie. This, however, is the very same stance that the City of Johannesburg took with the “Shadow Kill Hackers” who demanded 4 bitcoins (amounting to approximately half a million rand) from the City in October.

This is not the first time that the City of Johannesburg has been in the spotlight for security breaches; in fact, we covered news of a prior ransomware attack on Johannesburg back in August of 2019. If you live in the Johannesburg area, you might have been affected by this as the city shut down its website, all e-services, and call centre, as a precautionary measure after being alerted to the breach.

What happened in the Jo’burg City Hacking?

The self-named Shadow Kill Hackers contacted the City of Johannesburg and made their demands – 4 Bitcoins to be paid over to them by 5pm on 28th of October. The demands went on to say that if payment wasn’t made they would release all the data they had managed to retrieve from the City’s server on to the internet.

This is undoubtedly a valuable lesson to the City of Johannesburg, and all other municipalities about encryption.

The City of Joburg did not comply with the demands. They had another strategy in mind which involved investigation, improvement in system security, and following the letter of the law by letting the public know of the breach.

A great precedent was set by the response of the City, not only in the fact that it refused to concede to the ransom demand but also because it immediately set to work calling in experts to restore services and find out who was responsible for the disruption.

What’s the Final Solution?

Quite simply – the IT experts need to implement new, reliable systems. Major-General Sibiya, Head of Forensics, said that the Hawks have the case in hand and are making progress in interviewing various witnesses.

He also stated that the City is now aware of how the attack was executed when it was carried out, and where. They are now properly aware of the vulnerabilities that the City of Joburg’s servers have, with experts working on upgrading the systems. In short; the City of Johannesburg has it under control!

How Can You Protect Yourself?

If you hear that one of your online service providers or digital service providers has been hacked or has suffered a breach, that’s your cue to take action. Make sure that your accounts are either deleted and reinstated or that you change all of your passwords to something completely dissimilar to the one that you had.

You would also be well advised to do a few credit checks in the months to follow, just to ensure that no fake identity has been created using your details, and racking up a huge bill! You also need to get in touch with the service provider to ascertain the severity of the attack and to confirm the status of the threat. If the service provider is dedicated to customer care and your safety, they will also provide you with a list of “next steps” for you to follow.

While a big congrats goes to the City of Johannesburg for handling the situation as best they could, this recent hacking still serves as a valuable lesson to businesses as well as the man on the street.

No one is ever completely safe from hacking

If it can happen to the City of Johannesburg, it can most certainly happen to you! Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your data and be sure that it is backed up regularly to the cloud.

Is digital currency an alternative solution in fighting financial crime?

11 Sep

When you think of the central banking system and the South African Reserve Bank, you probably picture physical cash, notes and coins. You may have heard, earlier this year, that the country announced that the Reserve Bank was open to the idea of digital currency. In the release, the Reserve Bank stated that it believed a digital currency would “enable innovation and access, while still maintaining price and financial stability”.

You’d be forgiven (along with the rest of us) for assuming that this was a move towards currencies such as Bitcoin and other private cryptocurrencies, but that’s not the central bank’s plan at all. In fact, they are not even calling it a cryptocurrency, but refer to it as  “cyber tokens”.

What does all of this mean for cyber-crime, which has been prevalent in our country for the past few years? Does it mean that cybercriminals will now have easier access to hacking even more money – the digital kind?

As it turns out, having access to digital money may make things safer consumers.

Isn’t Cryptocurrency the Currency of Choice for Cyber Criminals?

If you have heard how cybercriminals use ransomware to encrypt data on computers and hard drives while leaving a demanding ransom note to make payment into a cryptocurrency account, then you are up to speed on how criminals have been using blockchain systems to their advantage.

The problem with cryptocurrency is that it makes the individuals in a transaction anonymous. This means that you can pay for something, or receive funds, and no one can tell who you are as there’s no real way of tracking the transaction. Sounds all a bit too easy for the criminals, right?

Well, here is where central bank digital currencies will differ. The banks are proposing a digital currency that is trackable and non-encrypted. This means that your personal data will be safe, but the transaction is certainly not anonymous.

How Bank Digital Currencies Could Help Towards Thwarting Cyber Crime

It’s hard to understand exactly how the SA Reserve Bank’s digital currency would work, but industry professionals infer that there are ways in which such currency could be used to minimise possible risks. Here’s how it may work:

  • A regulatory framework will be drawn up to determine precisely how digital currencies are seen, valued, and used. This means rules, regulations, and laws would need to be in place.
  • Banks would need to change their business models or find ways of incorporating digital currency management into their offerings, and ensure that their clients are protected.
  • Digital currency would be used by individuals in the form of a digital wallet. This is particularly useful for those who travel abroad. This means access to funds would be easier.

The Latest

It seems as if the country is going to have to wait and see what the South African Reserve Bank eventually decides. The roll-out of a digital currency could certainly be beneficial to many people, but whether or not the SARB could efficiently handle it is another story altogether.

Joburg Residents Left in the Dark after Ransomware Attack

27 Aug

At the end of July, prepaid electricity users in Johannesburg found themselves without power and unable to buy power. So, what happened? A ransomware attack was what brought a major prepaid electricity provider to its knees.

A ransomware attack is a cyberattack that accesses essential systems and files and encrypts them. Once encrypted, the files and systems can no longer be accessed. The hackers then demand payment via Bitcoin (which is untraceable) to return the systems to normal.

The company affected, City Power, confirmed the attack via Twitter and advised its customers that the attack had compromised their entire system. The notification went on to say that this included their website server, applications, databases, and network.

The Source of the Ransomware Attack

Sources confirmed that the Ransomware was unleashed on City Power’s IT system when an employee inadvertently opened an unknown email attachment that was harbouring a malicious file. And that’s all it really takes with a Ransomware attack – one click and all of your systems could be encrypted.

The Response from City Power

The first thing that people want to know when they hear about such an attack is whether or not the ransom was paid. It appears that City Power took the mammoth task of cleaning and rebuilding their systems to restore services to their Johannesburg customers, rather than bargaining with cyber criminals.

Just two days after the attack, it seems that City Power had their systems back online, but some customers were still unable to purchase prepaid electricity. Others, were unable to log electrical faults. These issues were not resolved for several more days after the attack. While the attack happened on Wednesday 24 July, the systems were only up and running efficiently over the weekend to follow.

Impact of Ransomware Attack on City Power’s Suppliers

For City Power’s suppliers, the issue was more distressing. While customer services were restored fairly quickly, it seems that City Power couldn’t solve the problem on their supplier’s side. This affected the logging of invoices, which meant that suppliers could not be paid.

Hats off though to City Power who undertook to continue paying their bills by requesting that suppliers deliver their invoices directly to their offices for payment.

Tips for Avoiding the Same Plight

If you own a business (big or small), you don’t want to suffer the same plight as City Power. Here are a few tips to help avoid a ransomware attack:

  • Install security software and patches, and ensure that they are always up to date.
  • Never open emails, attachments, or click links from unexpected senders.
  • Avoid dodgy or suspicious websites. Set security measures to limit the websites that staff members can visit.
  • Avoid using free trials of software packages or unknown software packages.
  • Create strong passwords and insist that staff members change them regularly.
  • Limit the use of personal devices on the business network.

Conclusion

Don’t let your business suffer the same plight as City Power and all of its customers. Take preventative steps to protect against Ransomware now and ensure that your data is backed up to the cloud.

 3 Lesser Known Online Scams

31 Jul

The internet has changed. Scams and tricks that caught people out years ago just wouldn’t work these days…or would they?

The internet is a wonderful place. It can simplify our lives and provide exceptional convenience, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not flawed. Along with the convenience comes the risk. Online scams exist and millions of people around the world have found themselves victims of these scams. It would be irresponsible to believe that the internet is a safe place.

Data scavengers

One thing is for certain, online scams and hoaxes are all designed around one basic need that hackers and criminals have, and that’s to collect data.

Once the personal data of an individual or business is obtained, that’s when purchases can be made, identities can be stolen and losses sustained. Without the right data protection and security mechanisms in place, it’s not a case of “if your data is hacked”, its more a case of “when your data is hacked”.

Phishing and Malware scams are a major problem for young and old, there’s no discrimination. It’s easy to fall victim to this when you shop online, read your email, or access your social media accounts.

It can be hard to keep track of all the online scams and hoaxes that go around each and every year, but we hope that this list provides a bit of insight into some of the lesser know. Some are old, some are new…but all of these are still highly prevalent in the online community.

Here’s our top pick of three scams that you might not have heard of yet:

Greeting Card Scam

It’s Christmas or Easter and you might be expecting a greeting card or two. With the digital age upon us, it’s not unusual to receive a greeting card in your email inbox. You open the email, click on the card and before you know it, a secret program is downloaded to your computer. You don’t think much of it and go on with your life. Maybe pop-ups appear now and then or your system is slow.

Behind the scenes, the downloaded software is quietly gathering your personal and financial information and sending it back to the criminals behind the hack.

A decent computer security system should be able to protect you against this kind of hack. Remember though, unless you personally know and recognise the sender of an email, don’t open it or click on any links and attachments.

‘You’ve Won the Lottery’ Scam

We all want to win the lottery so you will be forgiven if you find yourself falling for this one. This scam usually presents itself in the form of an email informing you that you have won a chunk of change. The initial excitement of being able to quit your job could make you overlook the fact that you haven’t bought a lottery ticket and the fact that you have to pay a processing fee to collect your prize.

You can protect yourself from this type of scam by being realistic. You should never have to pay money for a prize and if you haven’t entered a competition, don’t open emails or even respond to an SMS claiming that you have won!

Hitman Scam

Ever had your life or the life of a loved one threatened? That’s what the Hitman scam is all about. You receive an email stating that you or a family member will be kidnapped/killed if a ransom is not paid. These emails are believably threatening as they are often filled with your personal details which the criminals will have retrieved online.

You can protect yourself from this scam by limiting how much personal information you give out online and ensuring that you don’t converse with fake ransom emailers.

Many Other Online Scams Await You

Unfortunately, these three scams are just the tip of the iceberg of scams that are out there. Other popular scams include phishing email scams, Nigerian scams, bank loan and credit card scams, romance scams, fake antivirus software scams, Make-Money-Fast scams, travel scams, Bitcoin scams, fake shopping websites, and many more.

Avoid being a victim of scams. Store all your personal particulars in an off-site, data encrypted cloud account and ensure that you are always suspicious of potential threats. If something seems too good to be true or doesn’t quite sit right with you, avoid it at all costs.

Safeguarding Your Data from Ransomware In the Cloud

30 May

2016 seemed to be the year of ransomware and you would think that by now businesses would have it under control and be able to safeguard themselves, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

It may come as a surprise, but ransomware is not really new, it’s probably just never been this bad. It’s believed to have been around for more than 10 years already! Back in 2014, 3.2 million cases of ransomware were reported. These numbers are particularly surprising, as we know that many people don’t report cyber-crime, so the figures are probably considerably worse!

What’s ransomware?

Similar to the kidnapping and ransom request of humans, ransomware is a nasty little way for hackers to steal your data and then force you to pay them to return it.

It’s usually activated by means of phishing. You receive an enticing email, click on it or open an attachment and your system is contaminated with software that’s used to encrypt all the data on the computer. When you try to access your files, the computer will present a notice demanding payment in bitcoins in order to gain access to your data. It’s frustrating and there’s little to be done to reverse it once it’s happened, unless you pay the ransom (but then there’s also no guarantee that you will get anything back either).

There’s no magic cure to avoiding a ransomware attack, but one can ensure that everything is done to limit the consequences of such an occurrence.

Protect your data

In choosing to back up your data and systems your business can’t be held to ransom if your network is breached. However, your back up strategy needs to extend beyond simply keeping a copy of your data on your computer. The best solution is to rely on the cloud for storing your data.

Why is cloud storage the answer?

Cloud systems are equipped to detect, deter and destroy ransomware attacks before the criminals are able to enter the network and gain control of data. With cloud computing, you have more visibility of the potential risks and threats faced.

Cloud back up is a fail proof way of ensuring that you don’t have to pay ransoms and worry about losing data. If your system is hacked, you have a backup safe and secure in the cloud and better yet, it’s all encrypted in cloud so pesky hackers can’t do anything with it, even if they tried.

Simply signing up for cloud storage is not enough to protect your data from ransomware. Your IT team will need to do a bit more to ensure security and take full advantage of the security features offered by the cloud. Here’s a taste of what that “bit” more includes:

  • Ensure that all advanced cloud security features are understood, activated and working correctly at all times
  • Take advantage of cloud services’ disaster recovery capabilities
  • Educate all of your network users on the risks and threats and how to conduct themselves in a responsible and secure manner when making use of systems and networks.

It’s not really a case of IF ransomware will affect your business. It’s more a case of when. Make sure that you’re safeguarded against its potentially devastating effects by backing up to the cloud. Find out more about cloud backup features today. Get in touch with us at Soteria Cloud.

Hacked! 2016’s biggest hacking attacks revealed

31 Jan

With January over and out it would seem that we are well entrenched in 2017, and we take a look back to the previous year to see how we can learn from past mistakes.

It was a busy year for hackers and cyber criminals. Hacking, which increased exponentially during 2016 was certainly a recurring headline and the theme of the year seemed to be cybercrime. The past year’s highlights included Yahoo falling victim to a hack that put millions of its users at risk, not once, but twice! While a country (Russia), was even suspected of having a hand in the outcome of the US elections by hacking the vote.

You get the picture…hackers were hard at work last year and in an effort to keep our customers safe from cybercrime we take a look at some of the biggest hacks to have been uncovered or reported (to date) in 2016:

  • Yahoo – over 1 billion user’s information was exposed in 2013, and this after an earlier breach of 500 million user accounts, but the hack only came to light in 2016. That means the hackers had access to user information for years! Now that’s a scary thought.
  • Locky, DMA Locker, Surprise and Ranscam – you guessed it. Ransomware! Various types of ransomware attacks made the headlines in 2016, several of them involving African and even South African businesses. This type of hack involves files being stored on an affected device which then holds data hostage. Users can get the data restored if they pay the hackers a ransom amount in Bitcoins. Unfortunately, if you’re not protected against ransomware before the infection and you don’t have a backup of your data, you could find yourself losing all of your sensitive data, just like many businesses and individuals across the world did.
  • “Vote hacking” – Russia attempts to covertly affect the US election outcome. Investigators found that the Russian government had infiltrated the computer systems of major US political parties in order to affect the final vote.
  • MySpace – 427 million passwords of MySpace users were made available for sale in February 2016 by hackers. The already aged social network took a serious knock as many users lost faith in the network after hearing of it.

These are just a few of the headline hacks of 2016 and it’s safe to say that they barely scratch the surface! It’s never too late to backup and encrypt your data to ensure that you and your business don’t become victims of serious hacks, or even ransomware.

At Soteria Cloud we offer data encrypted safety measures for both private homes and businesses. Make 2017 the year that you focus on protecting yourself and your business / family from malicious hacks and cybercrime. Contact us for more information on our data backup features today.