Cybercriminals have been terrorizing regular online users and businesses since the invention of the internet. No matter how perfect society tries to be, there will always be a few rotten apples that could spoil the bunch, and this sadly does not exclude the online world. Hackers have been trying to take advantage of less technical people and businesses for years. They often target anyone who they believe is weak and could bring them easy financial gain – sometimes targets of hackers are regular non-technical people, and sometimes Fortune 500 companies end up being the victims. But how do cyber thieves decide who to attack and where do they find their targets?
You may be surprised, but social media platforms provide one of the main pools where hackers often go looking for the next victim. Nowadays, social media users very often disregard privacy rules and often share more than they are supposed to. Since the beginning of the social media boom ten years ago, online users have been sharing way too much online. The strive for more likes on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have made people not care much about their privacy. Nowadays, by merely browsing through hashtags on Instagram, you can easily find who the rich kids are, where they live, when they are away on vacation or attending an event. By simply seeing what cars they drive, hackers know how much ransom their victims can afford to pay. Gathering attention on social media platforms might be bringing you joy, but sharing too many details may end up biting back, as this is the number one spot where hackers go fishing for the next catch.
The dark web
The dark web is an online place that still exists and gets tens of millions of visitors from all over the world every day. CSO magazine recently quoted a report confirming that the popularity of the dark web is growing and sadly it still is exactly what you would expect it to be. Consisted of pages that are not visible to modern online search engines, the dark web often hosts websites that allow hackers to purchase stolen goods and data in full anonymity. Such stolen data could include sensitive information such as credit card numbers and social security numbers. Cybercriminals often sell stolen login details to other hackers. Such data may include passwords, usernames, and personal information that includes full names and addresses. With easily accessible personal data, hackers can go online and start draining bank accounts and commit all sorts of identity theft crimes.
Data brokers generally collect information about individuals and businesses from public networks. Especially in the U.S., such entities easily get access to motor vehicle and driving records, court reports, voter registration lists, and event user-contributed materials to social media websites. You may think that no one would be interested in your web browsing history or bank card transaction records, but these sources of information are often proven to be helpful not only to marketers but also hackers. With access to such rich data pools, cyber thieves can decide where would be the best way to strike next. As an example, seeing personal banking records might reveal how much a hacker can get out of you should the perpetrator somehow manage to infect your computer with ransomware. As an example, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) is under scrutiny right now as it made nearly $80 million back in 2017 by selling drivers’ personal information to third parties that include marketers bill collectors and insurance companies. Sadly, such information is a good starting point for fraudsters too.
Knowing the address of a potential victims allow hackers to gather information from all sources described above, and then sit down and puzzle it together, making it possible for them to attack successfully. However, what hackers hate most is uneasy targets, and having high-quality antivirus software installed on all your connected devices serves not only as an extra layer of protection but also as a repellent to cybercriminals. They wouldn’t waste time and money on targeting protected people or businesses, while they can easily get the same results by attacking the weak ones.