Election day has come and gone, and left Americans with mixed feelings surrounding the outcome. Already, hackers are taking advantage of some Americans’ confusion about the election results by creating phishing emails targeting them. These emails seem to offer information about why Donald Trump won, or why Hilary Clinton won the popular vote and lost the election.
After the election results came in, Google saw a large surge in searches about the American electoral system, and why it is “rigged,” or “flawed.” Cybercriminals saw opportunity embedded in people’s curiosity, and began creating emails claiming to have the answers to all of those questions and coming from reputable sources such as Harvard professors. In reality, these emails put malware into the victim’s computer or device once clicked, and that malware gives hackers access to the target system.
Those targeted by these malicious hackers include United States government officials, NGO employees and associates, and even policy think tanks. As a result, these hackers, assuming the victims took the email bait, gained access to possibly sensitive information. The attackers also chose these targets because they rightly assumed that people involved in the government would have more of a stake in the election results and express more interest.
Where did these cybercriminals come from? According to The Hacker News (http://thehackernews.com/2016/11/election-trump-phishing-malware.html), the group responsible for the phishing attacks, known as Cozy Bear, also participated in the recent Democratic National Committee breach and is possibly involved with the Russian government. Cozy Bear used an advanced system in order to infect victim devices. The malware they used, PowerDuke, conceals itself while allowing hackers access into the devices it infects. All it takes is one click.
Though Cozy Bear mainly phished those associated with the US government, everyone is vulnerable. America alone accounts for ten percent of the world’s attack traffic (http://www.countrydetail.com/top-10-countries-with-most-hackers-cyber-criminals/), second only to China. However, hackers by no means have to inhabit the countries they attack. Cyberciminals from all over the world are easily able to infect computers in the United States with the malware of their choice. Email presents an opportunity to do just that, and as of 2015 there are 2.6 billion email users in the world (http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Email-Statistics-Report-2015-2019-Executive-Summary.pdf), a number that only grows as the years pass. Additionally, most email users have multiple email addresses, which is usually an intelligent organizational and cybersecurity choice.
Unfortunately, multiple email addresses can also mean multiple vulnerabilities. The probability of phishing increases when the number of email accounts goes up. This does not mean a person should only use one email, by any means. Care simply must be exercised when looking through one’s emails. Americans have a habit of wanting immediate answers, and the recent hackers took advantage of that habit and the election results to create a successful scam. To avoid falling prey to groups such as Cozy Bear, think before you click. If there is the slightest suspicion, better not to risk your device and your personal information. Cybercriminals may target government officials to gain access to sensitive information, but they also target individuals and small businesses to steal identities or for ransomware purposes.
Cybersecurity grows every day as a concern for technology users hoping to better protect themselves from hackers. Training is essential in preventing attacks, and Abacode offers just that, along with assessments of your business’s security and 24/7 SIEM monitoring, which offers constant analysis of security alerts. This time, the phishing attacks focused on victims related to the United States government, but cybercriminals take every opportunity to phish individuals and take information. The difference between dealing with fallout from attacks or preventing them is cybersecurity training, and the first step is Abacode.