Employees | 4 min read

Hackers and Cybercriminals Go for the Gold During the 2018 Winter Olympics

  

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Athletes from around the world aren't the only ones seeking global domination during this year’s Winter Olympics. Hackers, crackers, and cybercriminals are also looking to take home some gold in 2018. From evolving malware schemes to drone takedowns, here’s what you may have missed.

Cyberattacks disrupt the opening ceremony

If you caught the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics, you know it was a magical experience complete with superhuman stunts, swarms of organized drones, and a pretty special rendition of “Imagine.” While it may have appeared to go off without a hitch, this was far from the case.

According to Jihye Lee, a spokesman for the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, hackers were responsible for numerous technical issues during the opening ceremonies. The attacks, which security experts claim were planned months in advance, shut down internet access and telecasts, forced broadcaster drones to land, took the official Olympics website offline, and even prevented hopeful attendees from printing out their tickets and attending the ceremony.  

While the attacks were fairly devastating, the hackers showed some mercy. The malware attacks they used were capable of destroying the infected computers, but the cybercriminals chose to erase only the backup files — meaning users could restart and repair the devices. This has some analysts suggesting the attacks were politically motivated.

Malware targets companies associated with Olympics

Organizations involved with the Olympics are also taking a hit. Earlier this year, McAfee discovered a troubling new phishing scheme and malware attack targeting companies and organizations affiliated with the biennial sporting event. The first recorded instance of this attack — which was directed at icehockey@pyeongchang2018.com and companies that provided infrastructure and support assistance to the Olympics — was designed to appear as if it was coming from the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC).

But the targets aren’t what make this attack unique; it’s how the included malware functions. Initially, the hackers embedded an implant into a Word document. Shortly thereafter, they hid it in an image that was hosted on a remote server and used macros to launch a decoder script. This tool makes it especially difficult for traditional antivirus software to identify. To accomplish this feat, hackers used Invoke-PSImage, a new-ish PowerShell tool used to store malicious scripts in the pixels of image files and execute them directly from memory at a later time.

This trend away from non-exe viruses is particularly troubling for the anti-virus community, which has been struggling to keep up.

Ways to protect yourself from malware, phishing

Use quality anti-virus software

Although anti-virus software has some challenges detecting the most-advanced malware threats, you don’t want to be caught without it. Just keep in mind that not all software is created equal, and a free service probably won’t cut it. Get a quality program and keep it updated.

Stay up to date

Your anti-virus isn’t the only software you need to keep updated! Whenever a program on your desktop recommends an update, you should do it. Hackers can exploit out-of-date software, regardless of the type, and hijack your computer. Software updates repair known security issues and help keep you safe, so be sure to perform them ASAP.

Learn the signs of phishing

Always exercise caution when you open email. Though cybercriminals are getting much better at phishing, there are a few signs you can spot a mile away. If you notice any of the following, stay clear of the email and — whatever you do — don’t click any of the links or images inside:

  • Misspellings and grammatical errors throughout
  • No contact details in the signature line
  • The offer seems too good to be true
  • The salutation is oddly worded or contains vague terms like “employee” or “friend”
  • When you hover over a link, it reveals a different URL than stated
  • Something just feels off

While this article focused on the Olympics, these attacks aren’t limited to any particular event. In today’s digital world, we are all targets for cybercriminals. This is why we must always remain resilient, vigilant, and well-informed. If you’d like to learn more about the dangers of phishing, please check out our complimentary ebook, “Phishing for Dollars: How Identity Theft Is Leaving Businesses and Their Employees on the Hook.”

  
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