According to Eric O’Neill, spy catcher and former FBI counter-terrorism and counterintelligence operative, there are no hackers; there are only spies.
“Hacking is an evolution of espionage,” he told a group at the recent Corcentric Symposium. He added, “We need to evaluate how we think about stopping a hacker who we still see as a kid in a hoodie working in their basement.”
Today the Number One cyber attack mode is via email, he explained. “People tend to assume that an email is from the ‘real’ sender but it might not be.” Unless you are using encryption, verify that the person you are ‘talking to’ is who they really are before sharing sensitive information. “Data is the primary currency of our time,” O’Neill says, and businesses need to be very careful who they share their data with.
Ransomware has become a successful business, according to O’Neill, and is now the Number One cyber security crime. In 2014, it cost businesses and individuals $24 million. Today that number is $5 billion. The latest ransomware scam is something called Popcorn where the affected computer user is asked to use Bitcoin to pay the ransom or to send a link to their friends. If those friends bite on the scam, the computer of the person originally attacked will be “un-ransomed.”
In order to stop these cyber attacks, O’Neill believes we need to change the way we address cyber security. “We have to be active and not reactive. As long as we react to problems (hacks), we will never win. We have to hunt the threats before they attack.”