Don’t let your Bitcoins get taken for ransom. I read an article this morning from the Denver Post about a recent ransomware attack on the Colorado Department of Transportation where the employees had their network hacked and subsequently were locked out until a ransom in Bitcoins was paid. What is ransomware? It is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. So, criminals are even using Bitcoin as a currency these days. But, please do not misconstrue what I am trying to accomplish with this article and assume it is all because of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency that cyber attacks are happening. Criminal activity and holding things for ransom have been around for thousands of years. The only things that have changed are what is being exchanged – mules and chickens to diamonds and pearls to cold hard cash to electronic transfers (like in the movie Swordfish) to Bitcoin and Ethereum.
My main goal with this article is to hopefully articulate some preventative measures to avoid sticky situations like this in the future. Cybercriminals have gotten very creative nowadays, and I do not want to bore you with a myriad of new terms like ransomware. Instead let’s just stick to a couple of words I think everyone can relate too: emails and websites. Emails are the most common entry point into our private, personal, and business information because they require us to open the door, so to speak. Good rule of thumb is if it sounds suspicious or too good to be true, just delete the email. If you really won the lottery, inherited a fortune, won a trip to Bora Bora, or got enrolled in the jelly on the month club, for example, I am sure someone will follow up with you multiple times.
So, it is easy for me to sit on my high horse and preach to the masses about what to do and what not to do when it comes to Internet Security, Protecting Personal Information, and Avoiding Hackers. But, that would be pompous and arrogant of me and you would probably change the channel. So, for starters let me say that I make the same mistakes as everyone else but a hacker is not very interested in ransoming my Bitcoins because I only have about a fifth on one coin. What I can do is to share my experience in simple easy to understand terms.
When I check my email, I delete every one that seems suspicious, boring, or inappropriate (I mean porn). The tricky ones with headlines like “You Have a Package at the Post Office” make me think, so I call the post office and see I have no package there. If you open the email, do not worry because you still have to click on an attachment or website link to download something before the hackers have you or your company in their grasps. I will make these security tips a weekly priority of mine moving forward to hopefully educate you and me so we can all work together to keep all of our Bitcoins or, in my case, pieces of them…