I was recently browsing the Krebs On Security Blog and came across an article about the various ways cyber criminals can make money by hacking a PC. Brian Krebs is an ex Washington Post Internet security reporter with lots of great experience tracking down hackers and other cyber criminal activity. The article is excerpted here:
The Scrap Value of a Hacked PC, Revisited
“A few years back, when I was a reporter at The Washington Post, I put together a chart listing the various ways that miscreants can monetize hacked PCs. The project was designed to explain simply and visually to the sort of computer user who can’t begin to fathom why miscreants would want to hack into his PC. “I don’t bank online, I don’t store sensitive information on my machine! I only use it to check email. What could hackers possibly want with this hunk of junk?,” are all common refrains from this type of user.
I recently updated the graphic (below) to include some of the increasingly prevalent malicious uses for hacked PCs, including hostage attacks — such as ransomware — and reputation hijacking on social networking forums.”
“One of the ideas I tried to get across with this image is that nearly every aspect of a hacked computer and a user’s online life can be and has been commoditized. If it has value and can be resold, you can be sure there is a service or product offered in the cybercriminal underground to monetize it. I haven’t yet found an exception to this rule.”
As you can see, there’s a lot of information stored on PCs that’s of value to cyber criminals. They can:
- turn your computer into an Internet Web server for malicious intent;
- use your email address and contacts for spamming and scams;
- steal your software and game license keys;
- obtain personally identifiable information from your social networking sites in order to steal your identity;
- make your computer part of a malicious botnet (a zombie);
- steal your banking and other financial account credentials in order to clean out your bank accounts and run up purchases on your credit and debit cards; and
- use ransomware to take your PC hostage to extort your money.
Reference: Krebs On Security.com article for more on this subject.
Be very careful…it’s dangerous out there.
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