Cyber security: The bad guys have gotten good

Evan Haning, wtop.com

WASHINGTON — The Internet is not like the Wild West, experts say. It’s more like Chicago in the mob-ridden 1920s: organized crime.

But organization doesn’t rule out random attacks on both people and small businesses.

Businesses that ask, “Who would target me?” don’t understand the current state of online crime, says Gunter Ollman, vice president of research at Damballa, a company that specializes in cyber espionage and other threats.

Rather than targeting small businesses, sophisticated criminal organizations often attack at random, Ollman says.

Specialists deliver malware to a computer or system, and the actual theft may be done by a Romanian hacker who is paid an hourly wage.

Additionally, one attack may deliver malware from several “customers,” Ollman explains.

But organized crime isn’t the only threat on the web. Do-it-yourself (DIY) malware kits are available online for as little as $50, warns No Wires Security founder Eric Geier in an article for eSecurityPlanet.

Hackers who download DIY malware may have their own computers infected, but the threat continues to grow.

Criminals no longer have to be tech-savvy geeks to launch attacks, Geier says. They can generate their own malware or pay others to create it.

Once created, new malware can be run through independent malware quality assurance (QA) services to test its detectability.

The bottom line for small businesses and all users: No one is too small to be hacked. Little thefts add up.

And at a minimum, always use — and update — your anti-virus software. You may need an online security expert, as well.

Follow Evan Haning and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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