By: Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC
Date Published: Monday, September 18, 2023
I was awakened last Tuesday to the fact that there are many cyber-attacks in this country and relatively nothing is being done about it. The number of attacks are growing daily.
I got a call from my Visa Card provider asking me about charges on my credit card. Apparently, there were over 20 charges for purchases through “PlayStation.” I informed them that I don’t own a PlayStation and probably never will. These were bogus charges, so they had to issue a new card. What a hassle. This is the second new VISA card in one year.
My new card arrived on Thursday of last week.
Then I got a call from American Express to verify a purchase on Friday. This was a $2,700 cruise. I informed them that I have not taken a cruise since 2019 and don’t plan on taking another one for a very long time. This was another bogus charge and a new American Express Card had to be issued. I am supposed to get that card today. So far, it has not come.
Last Thursday, my wife also attempted to go to the courthouse in Raymond Mississippi to purchase her license plates. The license department was closed as it appears that all of Hinds County Mississippi had their computers hacked with “Ransom Ware” of some sort and Hinds County is being held hostage. I’ve read that this “hack” caused personal information for all Hinds County residents to be held hostage and will not be released until the ransom is paid.
Ah ha … is that Ransomware attack the culprit of my stolen charge card numbers? I have no idea … nor does anyone else. However, I have to believe it is since I am very careful with the charge cards and rarely purchase anything online unless it is from a reputable provider (and nothing from social media like Facebook – who fact-checks their users but not their advertisers of goods and wares).
A little shocking research:
Upset just a little bit, I decided to do a little research into cyber-attacks in America and share that research publicly. Perhaps if the public – We the People – get behind this we can force the U.S. Congress to do more about it now and in the future than they have done in the past. Please feel free to send a copy of the link to this article to your state’s congressmen/women and Senators.
According to the sources I have found, there are an estimated 800,000 known cyber-attacks in America each year. This number is likely much higher, as many cyber-attacks go unreported.
The most common types of cyber-attacks in America include:
- Phishing attacks: These attacks involve sending emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or credit card company. The emails or text messages will often contain a link that, when clicked, will take the victim to a fake website that looks like the real website. Once the victim enters their personal information on the fake website, the attacker can steal it.
- Ransomware attacks: These attacks involve encrypting the victim’s data and demanding a ransom payment in order to decrypt it. Ransomware attacks are often carried out using phishing emails or drive-by downloads.
- Data breaches: These attacks involve unauthorized access to a computer system or network that results in the theft of sensitive data. Data breaches can occur due to a variety of vulnerabilities, such as weak passwords, outdated software, or human error.
The United States is a major target for cyber-attacks because it has a large and sophisticated economy. Businesses and government agencies in the United States also collect and store a great deal of sensitive data, which makes them attractive targets for attackers.
Now it is especially troublesome when the computer system of a state or municipality is hacked, and here’s why:
When a municipality computer system is hacked, a variety of personal information can be stolen, including:
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Credit card numbers
- Bank account information
- Medical records
- Voter registration information
- Education records
- Employment records
- Criminal records
- Sensitive government information
This information can be used for a variety of purposes, such as identity theft, fraud, and blackmail. In some cases, it can also be used to disrupt critical services, such as water and power supplies. I will spend some more time on our electric grid later in this paper.
What, if anything, are government officials doing about the cyber-attacks in America each year?
When I tried to find answers to this question, this is what I was able to uncover.
Government officials in the United States are taking a number of steps to address the growing threat of cyber-attacks. These steps include:
- Investing in cybersecurity research and development: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to lead the federal government’s efforts to protect critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks. CISA is also responsible for coordinating the federal government’s response to cyber incidents.
- Strengthening cybersecurity standards: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a number of cybersecurity standards that are designed to help organizations protect their systems and data from cyber-attacks. These standards are voluntary, but many organizations adopt them to improve their cybersecurity posture.
- Enacting legislation to improve cybersecurity: The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 was a major piece of legislation that was designed to improve the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure in the United States. The law requires critical infrastructure owners and operators to implement certain cybersecurity measures, and it also establishes a framework for sharing information about cyber threats.
- Providing education and training on cybersecurity: The DHS and other government agencies offer a variety of cybersecurity training programs for businesses, government agencies, and individuals. These programs help to raise awareness of the cyber threat and teach people how to protect themselves from cyber-attacks.
Despite these efforts, cyber-attacks continue to be a major problem in the United States. This is due to the fact that cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and that there is a growing shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals. In order to address this challenge, government officials will need to continue to invest in cybersecurity research and development, strengthen cybersecurity standards, enact legislation to improve cybersecurity and provide education and training on cybersecurity.
In addition to the above, government officials are also working to improve international cooperation on cybersecurity. This is important because cyber-attacks often cross national borders. The United States is a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is an international organization that works to promote cooperation on telecommunications and information technology. The United States is also a member of the G20, which is a group of 20 major economies that work together on a variety of issues, including cybersecurity.
The government’s efforts to address cyber-attacks are ongoing. As the cyber threat continues to evolve, government officials will need to adapt their strategies accordingly. Some feel the steps that are being taken now are a good start in the fight against cyber-attacks.
But I have to ask, is the government doing enough? The answer is a resounding NO!
Even though the CISA was created to reduce cyber-attacks in 2015 … Cyber-attacks have been on the rise since 2015. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) was established to lead the federal government’s efforts to protect critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks. Despite the establishment of CISA, cyber-attacks have continued to increase in frequency and severity.
There are a number of reasons for the increase in cyber-attacks. One reason is that the internet has become increasingly interconnected and complex. This makes it easier for cyber criminals to find and exploit vulnerabilities.
Another reason for the increase in cyber-attacks is that cyber criminals have become more sophisticated. They are now using more advanced techniques and tools to carry out their attacks.
Finally, cyber criminals are targeting a wider range of victims. In the past, they primarily targeted businesses and government agencies. However, they now target individuals as well.
So, how many cyber criminals are actually being caught and prosecuted each year?
Out of the 800,000 or so cyber-attacks in America each year the number of people arrested and prosecuted for cyber-attacks in the United States is relatively low. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risk Report, the rate of detection (or prosecution) is as low as 0.05 percent in the U.S. This means that for every 100,000 cyber-attacks, only about 5 people are arrested and prosecuted.
There are a number of reasons for this low rate of prosecution.
- One reason is that cyber-attacks can be difficult to track and investigate. The attackers often use sophisticated methods to hide their identities and locations, making it difficult for law enforcement to identify them.
- Another reason is that the evidence in cyber-attacks can be difficult to gather and present in court. Cyber-attacks often involve digital evidence, such as computer files and network traffic. This evidence can be complex and difficult to understand, making it challenging for prosecutors to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Finally, the resources available to law enforcement to investigate and prosecute cyber-attacks are limited. There are a limited number of cybercrime investigators and prosecutors, and they are often overworked and understaffed. This makes it difficult for them to investigate and prosecute all of the cyber-attacks that occur.
Apparently, the government has declared an all-out war on cyber-crime. If you recall they did the same with Poverty and Drugs. Since those wars have been declared poverty and access to drugs have both grown. What the government may need to do is contract with an outside firm to take charge of this so-called war and get the hell out of the way. That’s just one of my opinions. There will be more.
Ronald Reagan once said, and I believe, “Government does not solve problems. It subsidizes them.” He also said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
People arrested and prosecuted:
I tried to find out some of the names of people who were arrested and prosecuted for Cyber Crimes over the past five years and this is what I got.
- Maksim Yakubets, a Russian national, was arrested in Spain in 2022 for his role in a series of cyber-attacks that targeted banks and municipalities in the United States and Europe. He is accused of developing and deploying the Bugat malware, which was used to steal millions of dollars from victims.
- Roman Seleznev, a Russian national, was arrested in the Maldives in 2016 for his role in a series of cyber-attacks that targeted credit card companies and retailers in the United States. He is accused of stealing over $100 million from victims.
- Albert Gonzalez, a Cuban-American national, was arrested in 2008 for his role in a series of cyber-attacks that targeted retailers and financial institutions in the United States. He is accused of stealing over $40 million from victims.
- Peter Levashov, a Russian national, was arrested in Spain in 2017 for his role in a series of cyber-attacks that targeted email accounts and social media accounts of government officials and journalists in the United States. He is accused of stealing sensitive information from victims.
- Evgeniy Bogachev, a Russian national, is wanted by the FBI for his role in a series of cyber-attacks that targeted banks and financial institutions in the United States. He is accused of stealing over $1 billion from victims.
Now I am certain there are more … but isn’t it interesting that 3 of the 4 come from Russia – whom our current President is accused of having ties with? And, the last one has not been caught – he’s just wanted by the FBI as of now.
When I tried to find out what the penalties for these scoundrels were and I was not able to find any specific answers. So, I tried to find out how many Americans were serving time in prison for Cyber-crimes and all I was able to find out was that there was no information about people serving time in prison for cybercrimes.
However, I did find that the number of Americans arrested and prosecuted for cyber-attacks has been increasing in recent years. According to the Department of Justice, there were over 1,000 cybercrime cases filed in federal court in 2021, up from about 700 cases in 2016.
The increasing number of arrests and prosecutions is due to a number of factors, including:
- The growing sophistication of cyber-attacks, makes it more difficult for criminals to hide their tracks.
- The increasing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the private sector to share information about cyber threats.
- The development of new tools and techniques for investigating and prosecuting cyber-attacks.
Despite the increasing number of arrests and prosecutions, the number of cyber-attacks is also increasing. This means that it is important for individuals and organizations to take steps to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. Lord, knows the Government has not taken proper steps yet.
So, how does America handle people in other countries committing these crimes against the American People?
The United States government has a number of tools and strategies to handle people in other countries who are committing the crime of cyber-attacks in America. These tools and strategies include:
- Extradition: The United States can request that another country extradite a person who is accused of a crime in the United States. However, extradition is not always possible, as many countries have laws that protect their citizens from being extradited to other countries.
- International law enforcement cooperation: The United States can work with law enforcement agencies in other countries to investigate and prosecute cyber-attacks. This cooperation can take a number of forms, such as sharing information, conducting joint operations, and providing training.
- Economic sanctions: The United States can impose economic sanctions on countries that are harboring cyber criminals. These sanctions can be used to pressure the countries to cooperate with the United States in investigating and prosecuting cyber-attacks.
- Cyberwarfare: In some cases, the United States may use cyberwarfare to target cyber criminals in other countries. Cyberwarfare is the use of computer networks to attack or defend against another country.
The United States government uses a combination of these tools and strategies to handle people in other countries who are committing the crime of cyber-attacks in America. The specific tools and strategies that are used will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
It is important to note that the United States government is not always (and rarely) successful in apprehending and prosecuting cyber criminals who are located in other countries. This is due to a number of factors, including the lack of cooperation from other countries, the difficulty of gathering evidence, and the high cost of international investigations.
Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t our government simply quit giving out money to countries that we know contain and protect cybercriminals? Countries like India, the Philippines, Ukraine, Russia, China, Taiwan, and many, many more. If they don’t want to stop the cybercrime then we need to stop the cash flow … PERIOD!
Isn’t it true that our government will sometimes hire cybercriminals rather than prosecute them?
Yes, the US government sometimes hires cyber criminals rather than prosecute them once they are caught committing a crime. This is known as “deferred prosecution” or “pretrial diversion.”
Deferred prosecution is a program that allows the government to defer prosecution of a criminal case if the defendant agrees to certain conditions, such as paying restitution, completing community service, or entering a treatment program. If the defendant successfully completes the conditions, the case is dismissed.
Pretrial diversion is a similar program, but it is typically used for first-time offenders. The defendant agrees to certain conditions, such as completing a drug treatment program or paying a fine, and if they successfully complete the conditions, the charges are dropped.
The government may choose to defer prosecution or offer pretrial diversion to a cybercriminal if they believe that the person has the skills and knowledge that could be valuable to the government. For example, the government might hire a cybercriminal to help them investigate other cybercrimes or to develop new cybersecurity tools.
The government may also choose to defer prosecution or offer pretrial diversion if they believe that the person is unlikely to re-offend. For example, the person might have a good job and a stable home life, and they might be willing to cooperate with the government.
The decision of whether to defer prosecution or offer pretrial diversion is made on a case-by-case basis. The government will consider a number of factors, such as the severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and the likelihood of reoffending.
There are a number of pros and cons to deferring prosecution or offering pretrial diversion to a cyber-criminal. On the one hand, it can allow the government to get the skills and knowledge of a cyber-criminal without having to go through the time and expense of a trial. On the other hand, it can send the message that cybercrime is not a serious offense and that cybercriminals can get away with their crimes.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to defer prosecution or offer pretrial diversion to a cyber-criminal is a difficult one. The government must weigh the potential benefits and risks of each option before making a decision.
In some cases, the government may choose to defer prosecution or offer pretrial diversion to a cybercriminal if they believe that the person has the skills and knowledge that could be valuable to the government. For example (as stated before), the government might hire a cybercriminal to help them investigate other cybercrimes or to develop new cybersecurity tools.
Why are we so eager to give them a break? They are ripping people off for information or millions of dollars and we are going to hire them … and pay them … to join the war effort. If this is true, why aren’t we sending convicted murderers to fight our military wars … especially those spending years on death row? This is absolutely absurd.
So, how many organizations being attacked by ransomware are actually paying the ransom?
According to a report by Coveware, a cyber risk management firm, 73% of organizations that were attacked by ransomware in the first quarter of 2023 paid the ransom. This is up from 45% in the same quarter of 2022.
There are a number of reasons why organizations might pay the ransom. One reason is that they may be afraid of the consequences of not paying. Ransomware attackers often threaten to release stolen data or to disrupt critical systems if the ransom is not paid. For example, in 2021, the Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel pipeline in the United States, was forced to pay a ransom of $4.4 million after it was attacked by ransomware. The attack caused widespread fuel shortages in the Southeast United States.
Another reason why organizations might pay the ransom is that they may believe that it is the best way to get their data back quickly. Ransomware attackers often encrypt the data they steal, making it inaccessible to the victim. The only way to decrypt the data is to pay the ransom.
However, there are also risks associated with paying the ransom. One risk is that the ransom may not be paid. In some cases, ransomware attackers have taken the money and not released the data. Another risk is that the ransom may be paid, but the data may not be recovered. In some cases, ransomware attackers have deleted the data after receiving the ransom.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to pay the ransom is a difficult one. There are a number of factors that organizations need to consider, such as the severity of the attack, the likelihood of recovering the data without paying the ransom, and the financial resources of the organization.
Note: We all know that paying a ransom is going to increase the price of an organization doing business. With this increased price the ultimate cost to the consumer must also increase. Therefore, when you hear of any organization being attacked remember though it does not directly affect you it does directly affect your pocketbook or wallet.
This information of course brought up my next question – In the case of Colonial Pipeline where a ransom of 4.4 million was paid; were the hackers ever apprehended?
As of today, September 15, 2023, the hackers who attacked the Colonial Pipeline have not been apprehended. The FBI is still investigating the attack, but they have not released any information about the suspects.
The Colonial Pipeline attack was a major ransomware attack that caused widespread fuel shortages in the Southeast United States. The hackers, who are believed to be based in Russia, used ransomware known as DarkSide to encrypt the pipeline’s computer systems. The hackers demanded a ransom of $4.4 million, which Colonial Pipeline paid.
The FBI has said that they are working with international law enforcement partners to investigate the attack. They have also said that they are working to recover the ransom money. But, if the ransom is recovered … will Colonial Pipeline repay overcharged customers any of the money back? Doubtful at best!
It is important to note that paying a ransom does not guarantee that the data will be recovered. In some cases, ransomware attackers have taken the money and not released the data. Additionally, paying a ransom can encourage ransomware attackers to continue their criminal activities.
So, why do we allow victims to pay the ransom? I guess our government cannot dictate what the victim does when it comes to computer hackers … but they could dictate what they will do to the countries that harbor them … if they only would.
As for actual arrests being made due to someone setting up ransomware on a computer system of companies, this is what I was able to find out:
there have been arrests made due to someone setting up ransomware on a company computer system. Here are a few examples:
- In 2021, two men were arrested in the United States for their role in a ransomware attack on the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. The attack caused the hospital to lose access to its computer systems for several days. The men were sentenced to 20 and 24 years in prison, respectively.
- In 2022, a man was arrested in the United Kingdom for his role in a ransomware attack on the National Health Service. The attack caused widespread disruption to the NHS, and the man was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
- In 2023, a man was arrested in Canada for his role in a ransomware attack on the City of Toronto. The attack caused the city to lose access to its computer systems for several days. The man was sentenced to 2 years in prison.
The punishments for ransomware attacks vary depending on the jurisdiction. In the United States, ransomware attacks can be prosecuted under a number of different federal laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The penalties for violating these laws can range from 5 years to 20 years in prison, depending on the severity of the offense.
As stated, multiple times … It is important to note that many ransomware attacks are carried out by criminals who are located in other countries. In these cases, it can be difficult for law enforcement to apprehend and prosecute the criminals. However, there is increasing cooperation between law enforcement agencies in different countries to combat ransomware attacks.
Earlier I stated that we should withhold our funds from countries that house cybercriminals. Would this be helpful? This is what I found out:
It is possible that refusing to provide funds to countries known to house cyber criminals that attack US computers could help deter these attacks. However, it is important to note that there are a number of factors that could affect the effectiveness of this approach.
- One factor is the difficulty of determining which countries are actually harboring cybercriminals. Many cyber criminals operate from countries that do not have strong laws against cybercrime or that are unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement investigations. Additionally, cybercriminals often use proxies and other techniques to mask their location, making it difficult to track them down.
- Another factor is the willingness of the United States government to withhold funds from countries that are known to harbor cyber criminals. The United States government has a number of foreign aid programs that provide assistance to countries around the world. Withholding funds from these countries could have a negative impact on the people who rely on this assistance. To this, I say “Bunk.” During times of military war, many innocent civilians are killed or maimed. So what if some of the people who rely on our support do not have our support for a while… if it, in fact, will help deter cybercrimes committed against people in our country. America comes first!
- Finally, it is important to consider the potential consequences of withholding funds from countries that are known to harbor cyber criminals. These countries may retaliate by taking actions that are harmful to the United States, such as increasing cyber-attacks or cutting off trade. Personally, I wish many of them would cut off trade … it would help America get back to taking care of self rather than relying on foreign countries to take care of us.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to withhold funds from countries that are known to harbor cyber criminals is a complex one. The government must weigh the potential benefits and risks of this approach before making a decision. The problem with this is that when you have 535 members of congress trying to reach a decision … decisions come very slowly. That’s one reason much is not being done when it should be being done.
The bottom line is this:
No matter what our government tries to make you believe about cybercrime and the war they are fighting to end it … it is not enough. It is not getting better it is only getting progressively worse. It would not surprise me if, eventually, we get a major attack on our electrical grid in America. That would be done by the government of one of our many enemies around the world. One that we probably send billions of dollars per year to. Remember if we hire cyber criminals … other governments do as well.
If the US electric grid was hacked by cybercriminals, it could have a devastating impact on the country. The electric grid is a critical infrastructure that is essential for modern life. It provides power to homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, and other important facilities.
A cyber-attack on the electric grid could cause a number of problems, including:
- Power outages: A cyber-attack could cause widespread power outages, which could leave millions of people without electricity. This could have a serious impact on people’s health and safety, as well as on the economy.
- Your credit and debit cards would not work
- Banks would not be open
- Cash eventually could not be used because there would be nothing in stores to buy
- Disruption of critical services: A cyber-attack could also disrupt critical services, such as hospitals, water treatment plants, and transportation systems. This could lead to loss of life and serious economic damage.
- With no electricity to pump gasoline or diesel fuel, transportation would come to a standstill and the only items that could be brought to the store till the items are no longer available would be those brought by horse and buggy.
- Eventually even the horses would die because they would have no food (their fuel) to eat.
- Hospitals and their patients would be in a world of hurt. Even if the hospital had generators to keep it running … how would they get the medicines necessary to treat the patients?
- Banks, Stock markets, and other financial institutions will have to close and this will have a worldwide effect on all people. Cash will even become worthless.
- And how about fires … without the ability to pump water if a fire breaks out it will just burn until there is nothing left to burn.
- Increased costs: A cyber-attack on the electric grid could also lead to increased costs for consumers and businesses. This is because utilities may need to invest more money in cybersecurity to protect their grids from future attacks.
The US government says it is working to improve the cybersecurity of the electric grid. But don’t believe a word of it, the grid is still vulnerable to cyber-attacks and will be for years to come if they don’t change their focus from alternative fuels to protecting the grid we now have. It is important for businesses and individuals to be aware of the risks and to take steps to protect themselves.
It will be a mess if these criminals finally attack our electrical grid and force us into darkness. If you would like to know what this could look like, I recommend that you view this 1-hour, 31-minute video called American Blackout. This will likely tell you more than I’ve been able to tell you in this written piece. The film was produced in 2013 and I remember first watching it on TV on either The Learning Channel, the History Channel or Discovery.
In closing, please feel free to send a link to this article to your friends and your government leaders.
Most of all, have a great day, and remember to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You can’t row the boat without “making waves” and if you are not rowing the boat you are likely only drifting where the currents take you ~ Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC