“Killware” is the New Ransomware

hacker using killware

If you thought ransomware was scary, now the world of cybersecurity is contending with an even more diabolical threat – killware. No, we’re not talking about SkyNet, the self-aware AI computer security network from the Terminator movies hell-bent on destroying all humans. But the idea of cyberattacks actually designed to kill people is, apparently, all too real.

After the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in the Spring of 2021 – which disrupted a major fuel delivery pipeline and resulted in the company paying a $4.4 million ransom –  companies large and small are on edge. And with good reason, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in an interview with USA Today. A recent attack on a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida came dangerously close to succeeding in distributing contaminated water to residents. What is disturbing about the Florida attack was that the motive was not financial gain. It was simply to do people harm. While some media outlets reported on the hack, it was overshadowed by other incidents. “The Florida attack should have gripped our entire country,” Mayorkas said.

Hospitals and Infrastructure in the Crosshairs

Killware could be devastating if a hospital became the target of an attack. Such an intrusion could lead to patients suffering life-threatening complications or even death. Speculation is that companies in the private sector may already have more of a widespread problem than is known. Such companies often don’t make cyberattacks public.

Killware could also be weaponized to attack transportation systems, police, and emergency, or even smart-home devices such as thermostats. A report from Gartner predicts that by 2025, “cyber attackers will have weaponized operational technology (OT) environments to successfully harm or kill humans.”. There could also be an economic impact that could reach the tens of billions of dollars by 2023.

With the success in extorting money from vulnerable businesses, the pace of hackers is not expected to slow anytime soon. According to the eCrime Index from CrowdStrike’s 2021 Global Threat Report, cybercrimes have risen almost 124% since February of 2021. And with the lure of easy money, there is no end in sight. As of 2020, cybercriminals are raking in $1.5 Trillion a year in ill-gotten gains.

Protect Yourself From Killware

The more sophisticated hackers become, the more diligent we must be. This includes all aspects of our day-to-day computer and online lives, both at work and at home. The first line of defense is to be aware that bad people are always looking for a way to exploit technology. For that reason, it is critical that we all use basic steps and best practices to improve the security of our devices. These basics include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Use Strong, Unique Passwords
  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Audit accounts and deprovision departing users
  • Implement the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP)

At Carolina Digital Phone, we take our customers’ safety and security very seriously. We are constantly working to update systems and improve security. To keep updated on important stories and topics, we encourage you to subscribe to our newsletters and subscribe to our blog.

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