Posts Tagged ‘hacking’

Well, the 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing, and — as I write this on Monday — they thankfully haven’t been marred by violence or terrorism as was feared might happen. Security is tight, of course, and there’s really little chance of any type of crime going undetected there, with the apparently notable exception of cyber-crime.

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Not only are the Sochi games the most technologically advanced ever, athletes and other visitors to the region are more likely than ever before to use their own personal technology during their stay, and to be targeted by both the Russian government and cyber-gangs as a result.

Even reporters aren’t immune to attack. Although some security researchers deny the report’s accuracy, Richard Engel, a correspondent for NBC news reported being hacked immediately upon logging into his devices in Russia:

Engel had American computer security expert, Kyle Wilhoit, set up two computers with fake identities and phony contact lists to see how long it would take to be hacked. Almost immediately, Engel received a suspicious email, which allowed the hacker access to his laptop.

Other security experts have warned that Russian cyber-criminals are indeed actively targeting visitors to the games, and that they even have access to cell towers in and around Sochi. According to one expert, though, the digital security concerns at these Olympics aren’t really that much different than past games:

“It’s the same as during the Beijing Games — the host government, private enterprise and individuals pose a big threat to people traveling to the Sochi Games, in respect to monitoring conversations on cell phones and intercepting texts and emails,” said one Olympic security contractor.

And, as other research companies point out, your digital security isn’t really safe from threats anywhere these days. Just as with pickpockets in the past, when large crowds gather and begin using their devices on unsecured public networks, the criminal element is going to take advantage of the opportunity.

So, whether you’re enjoying the games in person or are watching them on a public network here in the states, make sure to pay attention to your basic cybersecurity.

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What do Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, and Clint Eastwood all have in common? Not much, you say?

Actually, they’ve each been the victim of a dangerous new hacking “prank” called “Swatting.” Hackers call the police – apparently from the target’s phone number – and report a serious crime in progress, such as an armed home invasion. As might be expected, the police respond with overwhelming force in these cases, sometimes using a SWAT team, and kick in the target’s door to investigate.

In one recent Swatting case, journalist Brian Krebs was accosted on his front porch by armed officers, guns drawn, who had been called to the house on report of a burglary in progress. There was no crime occurring, as Krebs had been in the process of preparing for a dinner party, and he hadn’t been the one to call the police in the first place.

It’s not always celebrities or journalists who are the targets, however. There have been a number of incidents around the country targeted at private citizens, including some recent incidents in Elk Grove, California.

The dangers of this phenomenon are obvious, but solutions less so. In the Krebs case above, officers did attempt to call his home number while responding. Had he been able to answer the phone, Krebs might have headed off the whole incident, but even that’s not certain. Swatting is already illegal, but some lawmakers are proposing even stiffer penalties for this particular brand of false reporting.

If you’re a SWAT officer, what are your thoughts on this, and, if you’ve been a victim, what was your experience?