Black Hat Hackers stick their sticky fingers in everyone’s day

Erik Acosta, Opinions Editor

Disclaimer, the Opinion of this Reporter does not reflect the Opinions of the Mesa Press.


We live in an age where our day to day operations rely on our smartphones. From working out business deals, to infrastructure, and for simple app based entertainment.

In the previous weeks there has a been a series of fraudulent ads, ransomware attacks on several U.S. targets, and spyware being used on a global scale. Most of you will read this and instantly give way to the thought “why should I care?” It’s simple, we’re all getting screwed and without addressing this problem, it will manifest and continue to plague, sicken and shake the very foundation of our society, not just at a local scale, but on a global scale as well.

The US Treasury Department has placed bitcoin addresses on its sanctions list for the first time after two Iranian hackers were charged with extorting millions of dollars through them, according to a report by the Verge. In a nutshell, the two men were locking down data of critical infrastructure institutions, and held the data for ransom until the targets paid-up. That’s right, were talking about a good ol’ mob shake down here. Among the victims are Hospitals, Universities, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and even one target right here in our beautiful sunny city, The Port of San Diego. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the port oversees 34 miles of San Diego Bay waterfront property. It plays a key role in public safety with the Harbor Police and the operation of cargo and cruise terminals. It houses 800 businesses, including shipbuilder General Dynamics-NASSCO.

Next time you’re at the hospital, awaiting treatment, just think about how nice it would be for all the data to be frozen, essentially barring employees at the hospital from doing their jobs, such as saving lives. Or freezing all of your important business data, stopping commerce, affecting everyone from the top down. You can thank these hackers, for all that garbage that’s rolling downhill straight for us.

While yes, that’s a huge problem, the fun doesn’t stop there. A safety advisory was issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) regarding a recent spyware attack named Pegasus used to target journalists in 45 different countries. According to CPJ “The spyware gives the attacker the ability to monitor, record, and collect existing and future data from the phone. This includes calls and information from messaging applications and real-time location data. The spyware is able to remotely activate the camera and microphone to surveil the target and their surroundings.”

The big fat “who cares?” looms over that safety advisory to anyone who isn’t a journalist, but don’t fret, don’t fear, I’m here to break it down. Journalists rely on trust with their sources to report on incredibly important work, vital to the survival of freedom, and democracy. Some of those sources risk their lives to provide us with crucial information, regarding organized crime, corrupt elected officials, civil rights violations, and oppressive governments to name a few. Sometimes, the mere leak of a name could spell a death sentence to an individual. Which is nice, if you hate freedom on a global scale that is. If we as a society, don’t protect these journalists and their sources, then you can rest assured we’ll all be sifting through social media looking for news from your high school acquaintance who still believes the earth is flat. News flash, I fact checked that, and it turns out the earth is not flat, you’re welcome.

With one last caveat, let’s talk apps. There has recently been a case of a few fraudulent ads that are targeting Android users. If you have an iphone, pat yourself on the back, for now. I’m sure you’re next in line. BuzzFeed News reported last month on an “ad fraud scheme that tracked user behavior in dozens of Android apps to generate fake traffic and steal advertisers’ money.”

So with all of this hogwash going on, it looks like the only thing we can do is stay informed and act accordingly. You can rest assured that there is someone out there right now writing a virus, so it’s time to become acquainted with internet security practices, unless paying for your data back is already integrated into your monthly budget. As if we all didn’t have enough to worry about. Oh, and for your high school acquaintance that keeps sharing fake news, could you let him know that I still can’t find anything concrete on the evidence of bigfoot, but I’m looking.