Pennywise, the nefarious clown from the movie, It, has the power to take the form of your greatest fear. Guess what, so do hackers.

In honor of Halloween, or should we say “Hackoween,” we here at Keeper Security compiled a list of top horror films and how today’s hackers are even scarier (and more real). We also added a bit of advice on how to keep them at bay to protect yourself and your loved ones.

When it comes to the question of trick or treat, we prefer treats! Now let’s get to the bloodbath, shall we?

 

Hacker horror story #1 – The call is coming from inside the house!

In 1979 the movie, When a Stranger Calls, terrified countless parents and babysitters across America when the murderer in the movie called an unsuspecting heroine and simply asked, “Have you checked the kids?” The young woman calls the police and is told in no uncertain terms, “We’ve traced the call. It’s coming from inside the house.”

The 2017 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, sponsored by Keeper Security and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, found that the greatest single threat to a business was their own employees with 54% of IT professionals pointing the finger at negligent employees as the main cause of a cybersecurity breach. The same idea can be applied to your own family, considering hackers are constantly trying to trick you and your loved ones into clicking malicious links via phishing scams.

Have you ever talked to your spouse and kids about safe online practices? How to identify an email scam? Did you know that kids are 35 times more likely to be a victim of identity theft than an adult? Does your family utilize a password manager to create and store unique, high strength passwords for every login? It’s time to pull out the pumpkin pie and have a serious family conversation about cyber safety around the kitchen table.

 

Hacker horror story #2 –  “I can basically pretend to be you. Right now, I am you.”

In 1992, Jennifer Jason Leigh scared the bejesus out of Bridget Fonda and anyone else considering sharing their apartment with a total stranger in the roommate from hell horror classic, Single White Female. Leigh begins to take on the characteristics and personality of Fonda throughout the movie in an attempt to replace her life with her own. Even cutting her locks to mimic the bowl cut, carrot top hairstyle only Fonda could pull off. Talk about frightening!

Identity theft is a real thing in the digital world and becoming an increasingly popular way for hackers to make money. With the alarming amount of data breaches over the past few years, such as the recent Equifax data breach where cyberthieves reportedly stole the personally identifiable information (PII) of more than 143 million Americans, hackers are cashing in by selling your information over the Dark Web where buyers are applying for lines of credit and threatening to lock citizens out of their accounts unless they pay up.

Keeper Security teamed up with the CBS Evening News for a recent segment on identity theft and how much your information is worth on the Dark Web. IT specialist Art Damiao’s nightmare began when a hacker called him after breaking into his personal email. Here’s the voicemail he left…

“Hello Mr. Damiao, you will not get your email address back, you will need to contact me and give me the amount of $300 via bitcoin. I also have your Social Security number, your driver’s license number, front and back. I can basically pretend to be you right now. I am you.”

Have you checked to see if your email address and password have been compromised? You can find out here. Experts recommend freezing your credit and sign up to receive notification if any applications for credit have been taken out in your name. Carrot top bowl haircut or not, this is terrifying stuff!

 

Hacker horror story #3 – You are trapped with nowhere to go.

The Saw movie franchise has proven to be a wildly popular horror movie formula. A serial killer traps victims in a sadistic trap and forces them to complete perverse puzzles to get out or face a terrible death. Hackers have their own version of this agonizing technique. It’s called ransomware.

In May of 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack hit more than one million computers worldwide encrypting vital files on the machines it infected and made them inoperable until the victims agreed to pay a ransom. The attack knocked out operations at hospitals, major corporations, law firms, medical devices and even infected traffic cameras on stop lights. This year, more than 51% of small and mid-sized businesses reported experiencing a ransomware attack within the past 12 months. Even more frightening for consumers is that 58% of ransomware infections targeted them.

Ransomware is often transmitted by email or web pop-ups. Cautious online behavior can help prevent the malware from infecting you. Experts recommend you update your software, install anti-virus software, be wary of suspicious emails and pop-ups, and to create backups of your data.  Learn more about how to protect yourself from ransomware attacks here.

 

Hacker horror story #4 – The monster that lurks and never seems to die.

Ransomware is one type of malware that infects your computer. Most malware stays hidden, lurking in the background, to spy on you and collect vital data. Like the iconic 1978 movie character Michael from Halloween, malware hides in the background to terrorize you and never seems to die.

Much like Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode, it is important to first detect and identify your stalker. Have you experienced unusual behavior in your system, such as slowdowns, crashing, or repeated error messages? Do you have an increasing number of pop-up ads on your screen? How about any new toolbars or icons you don’t remember installing? These are all good signs that you have been compromised.

If you think your computer has been infected with malware stop using the computer for shopping, banking or any other uses that involve passwords and other PII. Verify that your security software is running and is current. Again, much like Laurie Strode, it may require help from a professional. In the case of Halloween, it came in the form of Dr. Samuel Loomis played by the incomparable, Donald Pleasence. In your case, it should probably be an Information Technology (IT) professional.  

 

Hacker horror story #5 – Ghosts in the machine.

In 1982, moviegoers around the world learned to fear their own TV sets when five-year-old actress, Heather O’Rourke, creepily stared into the white noise of the Freed family’s television set then turned to her family to announce, “they’re here.” With those two words Poltergeist instantly became a box-office movie blockbuster sensation.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded into everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Some examples include Nest thermostats, connected toys, security systems, refrigerators and even coffeemakers. By 2020, technology analyst firm, Gartner, predicts there will be more than 20 billion IoT devices.

The proliferation of IoT will bring convenience to many people’s lives but the interconnectivity comes at a price. Hackers now have several ways to invade your home or business through your tech devices. And even more frightening, as technology takes over the toy world a growing target for hackers is children.

Have you purchased IoT toys and devices for your home? If so, does the device have a default password? Ensure that you protect the devices with strong, unique passwords and demand manufacturers share the information they collect from the device. Particularly, if they are collecting full names, addresses and phone numbers of registrars.

Click here to find out how to protect your family against hacks on the hottest holiday IoT gifts.

Everybody loves a good horror story but not when it’s about them. Let’s work together to keep them where they belong, in the movies. Happy Halloween!

 

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