Oh, Those Naughty Cyber Attackers!

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TME-PHhallYou may not realize this, but I am so sexy that lascivious beauties from across the Internet go out of their way to make my acquaintance. Or at least people are trying to get me to believe that fantasy.

The other day, an email turned up in my in-box with the subject “Krystle BOOBS Norcross sent you a WINK.” And the message read: “Hi sweety, I saw your photo in the social network and realized that we live in the same town. How about spending a couple of hot weekends together and having fun without any needless questions?”

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Now this is interesting, since I live in a small town and I don’t know anyone here with the name (either self-proclaimed or ordained via baptism) of “BOOBS.” And I am not certain what social network she saw me on – it might have been LinkedIn, where a lot of people seem to enjoy my articles on the housing market. But being a journalist, I try to avoid “needless questions” when doing interviews – so I was a little peeved with that particular request from this intriguing lady.

In any event, Ms. Norcross included a link in her email and the invitation to click it so I can learn more about her. Hmmm, do you think Ms. Norcross was sincere in her desire that I join her for a couple of hot weekends together?

Actually, Eric Robichaud, the CEO at 401 Consulting in Woonsocket, R.I., deflated my sense of romantic self-delusion by informing me that Ms. Norcross has no carnal interest in me. In fact, there is no Ms. Norcross.

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“It is a Russian crime syndicate,” said Robichaud about my email. “They are trying to bait you to click the link so they can install spyware on your system to steal your identity and bank info. It’s not real at all. It’s link baiting.”

Why would the Russian criminals do this? And why me? Well, it is seems that this type of mischief is not personally directed at me.

“They build bot networks of millions and millions of computers this way,” Robichaud explained.

Admittedly, this anecdote involving Ms. Norcross represents one of the more ridiculous corners of the cybersecurity sphere. But it should be noted that the cyber miscreants are leaving no digital stone unturned. From trying to hack into the major financial institutions and federal agencies to tempting an obscure soul like me with a hot and steamy email from the supposedly delicious Ms. Norcross, they are working 24/7 to create damage.

So, where is our government in all of this? Every now and then, there is some blip of activity and a bold promise to do something, but it often seems that this hiccup of enthusiasm subsides when a new crisis ascends. But maybe there is finally hope that some aspect of this problem will be addressed.

One of the more intriguing developments here is a new bipartisan effort in Congress to establish a national data security and breach notification standard for financial institutions and retailers. Reps. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) and John Carney (D-Del.) introduced the Data Security Act in the House, while a similar Senate bill was introduced by Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.). The legislation would replace the numerous state laws with a single slate of national data security requirements that would require a company experiencing a breach to notify all impacted customers, as well as federal and consumer credit agencies and law enforcement, if the breach affects more than 5,000 individuals. At long last, there is something that both parties in Congress can agree on.

The cybersecurity struggle often seems like a losing war, with the bad guys always finding new ways to wreak havoc. Let’s hope that the alleged Ms. Norcross and her comrades finally get unplugged and that Net-based security can become more of a reality.

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