Tesla recently joined the ranks of large technology companies that have been hacked. However, in this case, not a single bit of data was stolen. Instead, the hackers used their unauthorized access to hijack computing time in order to mine for cryptocurrency. While it’s never great to see another beloved tech company become compromised, I found it incredibly interesting to interpret the nature of this hack as an indicator of what online thieves believe is most valuable these days. Check out the story, and let me know your thoughts on these next few points:
Data is losing its relative value
For the hackers to have spared the data that was stored on the cloud, they must not have thought it was worth stealing. The act of stealing data in order to reap a profit isn’t a terribly complicated process. First, the outside party bypasses any and all security measures, assuming they understand the security measures used to safeguard the particular environment. Second, they extract the data they deem to be valuable, which may include things such as company diagnostic data, consumer information, engineering/design specs, internal memos, etc. Third, they take the data to the darknet (akin to the underbelly of the internet) to auction or sell wholesale to bidders or any other interested party. For the hackers to completely forsake any potential value of the data they ignored, the alternative must have been much better.
The value of cryptocurrency is increasing in more ways than one
While the price of Bitcoin has rebounded from its most recent low, there potentially are other factors at play which make Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, much more useful in the illicit world of hacking. Cryptocurrencies can be extremely difficult to trace for oversight boards and governments. Data leaves a trail. These two facts alone should make it clear that some hackers are getting wise about the risk involved in their activities. In the wake of the global revelation about international spying occurring with frequency in cyberspace, many have become acutely aware and uncomfortable with being monitored. Privacy is the name of the game, and these hackers are wise about how to play it well. Whereas they would have had to contend with possible tracing efforts years ago, there are less tedious methods of getting paid for bypassing security nowadays.
Possible increases in hacking attempts overall
By obtaining cryptocurrency directly vs. selling data assets to obtain currency, the hackers have found a faster means of getting their money. This means one less barrier to getting paid, making the prospect of cybercrime all the more alluring for other would-be hackers. This enticement could mean an uptick in the number of cyber attacks that occur in the future. Further, since it doesn’t matter how valuable stored data is anymore, hackers may begin to target smaller and previously considered less attractive online businesses. Such businesses may have little or no security measures in place to even protect against hacking efforts – all that would be considered is the company server’s ability to process blockchain.
Although I’m sure there will be no immediate decline in hacking attempts aimed at obtaining consumer data, this new method of exploiting others for the sake of profit presents a unique set of dangers. Because the user or server admin isn’t noticeably affected by breaches for the sake of exploiting processing power, such breaches will take much longer to resolve. And the rising value of blockchain currencies coupled with the liquidity of the assets will be additional draws for those who believed that hacking was too high-risk, low-reward. This may lead to an increase in the number of hacking incidents worldwide, especially for previously less-attractive targets for hacking.
In the face of such incidents, we would all do well to become more cautious about our online activity. Some may recall the phishing attempt early last year, when Google was compromised, and links were sent to us seemingly from our own BC contacts. While there were very few incidents that became serious, this perfectly showcases the types of attacks we may see more of in the future – only this time, we would grant thieves access to profit opportunities at the cost of our own processing capacity.