Intel Analyst-FBI public domain courtesy FBI

FBI Intelligence Analyst (image courtesy FBI)

On July 12, with the help of my content manager-webmaster (writer-PI Colleen Collins), I posted “Can a Hacker Take Over Your Computer? Short Answer: Yes.” The article covered the true story of a writer whose computer was taken over by hackers who, via an untraceable email, demanded a ransom if she wanted back the files on her hard drive. She thought it was a prank email at first…but when she could not open any of her files, including chapters of a novel-in-progress she was under contract to deliver to her publisher in 6 weeks, she realized the hackers’ threat was real.

The article link: “Can a Hacker Take Over Your Computer? Short Answer: Yes.”

Operation Shrouded Horizon: Feds Dismantle a Cybercrime Shop

On July 15, a few days after I posted the above blog, federal agents in an investigation called Operation Shrouded Horizon, took down an international cybercrime forum, Darkode, which operated as a kind of cybercrime market where cyber-criminals shopped for things like ransomware and exploit kits. U.S. Attorney Hickton said, “We have dismantled a cyber hornets’ nest of criminal hackers which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.”

Full Department of Justice announcement: Major Computer Hacking Forum Dismantled

Piercing the Cyber-Criminal Shroud: Images from the Dark Side

white collar criminal

In 2013, a cybersleuth named Krebs successfully penetrated Darkode and became one of its members. Unfortunately, they caught on to his presence and he got kicked out, but not before he learned a lot about the players in this cybercrime underworld.

He wrote in depth about the July 15 takedown of Darkode, including its hierarchy and key cybercrime players, in this piece: The Darkode Cybercrime Forum, Up Close

Five Tips to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime

Here’s a few general tips for protecting your computer from cyber-criminals:

  1. Maintain updated computer software & apps. Setting up automatic updates is ideal because if you or your webmaster is logging in to update software/apps, that means there were bugs present prior to the update, and bugs = vulnerabilities.
  2. Download from official sites only. There’s a lot of free stuff available for download on the Internet, but you can end up downloading a lot of problems along with that freebie app, program, whatever. Therefore, download from official sites only. It’s also a good idea to be conservative in the number of downloads, too.
  3. Create unique passwords with upper & lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. I know, you’ve probably heard this password warning a gazillion times, but making passwords easy to guess, or using the same password across multiple sites, invites a cyber-criminal to pay a visit. Some people say you shouldn’t use a password manager as some are fraudulent. I don’t use a password manager, nor do I have any idea which ones might be corrupted, so I’ll leave that topic for you to further research.
  4. Cover your computer camera. I just read about this security measure the other day. Seems hackers have taken over people’s computer cameras without their knowledge (with no light indicators alerting the users, either). I can see the reasoning behind this — for example, you’re speaking to someone on your phone about a confidential business manner while you’re at your computer, that dialogue could be captured by cyber-criminals. Even if the audio isn’t captured, the computer user is so close to the camera, lip-reading could be easy. Covering the camera with a piece of tape is easy to do. Then remove the tape when you want to use the camera.
  5. Use encryption software. This site ranks the top encryption software products and their prices: 10TopTenReviews: 2015 Best Encryption Software Review
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Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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