At first hackers were just a nuisance. Then they became a threat. Now they have graduated to full-fledged hacking scams.
In a sense, hacking scams have been around longer than computers. Once upon a time, adept busybodies figured out how to hack into old fashioned analog telephone lines. Once the silicon chip came along it was inevitable that the same devilish combination of inventiveness and curiosity would migrate into the computer age as well.
Hacking was not a phenomenon when computerization was in its infancy. That was because it was then dependent on bulky mainframes – protected in locked, air-conditioned rooms and restricted primarily to universities and research labs. Hackers must have access, and the only people who had it then were the very people who built, programmed and used those mainframes. They were not going to willingly inflict damage. But then came the PC, and after it the internet, and together they changed everything. Now, any hacker can run hacking scams.
Worse yet, anyone can inadvertently transmit hacking scams or become a victim of hacking scams. Just ask the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, or Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world. A WhatsApp video message the Crown Prince sent to Bezos on May 1, 2018 carried a malicious file that infected his smartphone and may have transferred sensitive personal files either back to the prince or to a third party.
Hackers first became a widespread nuisance when they began to infect computers with what soon were referred to euphemistically as worms and viruses. What made them so widespread is their surreptitious method of delivery as attachments to emails. Clever hackers designed their attachments to look legitimate. Those who were more mischievous than clever designed theirs to look less legitimate.
Either way, once opened they do damage. Worms slither into your computer to latch themselves onto an existing program. They then replicate themselves to slow the computer down and, potentially, cripple it entirely. Since the hacker can control them remotely, there is no way to overcome them other than by identifying them and removing them. Viruses also attach themselves to an existing program, but they are another species. They infect the program with a malicious command that, for example, deletes existing files. These viruses, like the ones that infect humans, are uncontrollable by anyone. Like worms, however, they can be identified and removed.
Implanting malware in your computer is also a common way for scammers to obtain access to your credit card and bank details.
Worms and viruses, in turn, led to Trojan Horses. And Trojan Horses empowered hacking scams even more.
Just like the one made famous by Homer these Trojan Horses are not detected until they’re inside the city gate. Meaning your computer or smartphone. Unlike worms and viruses, they operate on their own rather than by piggybacking on another program. Trojan Horses are potentially deadly because they steal sensitive information, like your passwords, credit card numbers and PIN numbers and then feed it back to the hacker. Without even knowing it, you can wake up the next morning and find that someone just withdrew all the money in your bank account.
Or worse. A hacker can program a Trojan Horse to shut down your computer or cellphone entirely. Unless, of course, you pay a hefty ransom. More often than not these days the hacker demands payment in cryptocurrency, since it is anonymous and, therefore, untraceable.
Unfortunately, ransomeware is spreading. According to one prominent network security firm, a total of 205,280 different businesses provided evidence that they were victims of ransomware attacks in 2019. That represents a 41% increase over the number reported in 2018.
Hacking Scams Can Now Infect Any Computerized Electronic Device
The biggest boon for hacking scams, however, was the introduction of Bluetooth technology. That is because it allowed hackers to take control of virtually any computerized electronic system. That, in turn, made credit card and debit card skimming scams much easier. Hackers can now use Bluetooth to transmit your credit card or debit card number and PIN from ATMs and gas station pumps.
Bluetooth also allows them to engage in real estate scams. Thy do so by infecting computer networks at real estate agencies and law offices of attorneys who specialize in real estate transactions. Once they’re inside those networks they can walk away with entire files, including the contract, payment schedule and personal information on the sellers and buyers. The hackers the contact the buyers before the next payment is due, impersonate the attorney and instruct them to transfer the money to a different account than the one the seller provided. That different account, of course, is one the hackers control. Or better yet, pay with cryptocurrency.
What’s Next for Hacking Scams?
Self-driving (or “autonomous”) cars? We won’t know for sure until they hit the road. Some experts say the potential threat is exaggerated while others swear the potential for gridlock and mayhem is unlimited. At any event, we’re not there yet. That awaits the introduction of 5G cellular networks, which will have the capacity to transmit the data without a disruptive delay.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a hacking scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.