For all of you business folk out there, the topic of cybercrime is likely nothing new. After all, the virtual sphere is so crowded with hackers these days that all companies - from the corporate giants right on down to the small-town general stores - need to be cognizant of the threats posed by the innumerable cybercriminals out there. If your company is doing things right, then the topic of virtual crime is discussed in general online meetings, and not just confined to the IT department.But here at Fonality, we wouldn't blame you if you find the whole notion of virtual crime somewhat abstract. After all, unlike a robbery of your actual company, where you'd be able to see broken windows and looted offices, cybercrime is not something that's immediately visible. And even less visible than the crimes themselves are the individuals who carry them out. Indeed, the image most people have of a hacker is that of a shadowy figure, pounding malicious keystrokes in his or her mother's basement. But cybercriminals aren't always cloaked in mystery. In fact, a lot of the time, they're out there in the open, doing their dirty work not in a dingy basement, but instead in the exact coffee shop where you're getting your morning fix. We thought we'd take this post to give you a peek into the lives of two of the more notable cybercriminals in recent memory:
- Ross Ulbricht: Ulbricht currently sits in a dank jail cell awaiting trial, but not too long ago his preferred location was the San Francisco coffee shop scene, including Momi Toby's Revolution Cafe & Art bar, an establishment with a "hipster" atmosphere and 3.5 stars on Yelp. With a thatch of brown hair and Robert Pattinson-esque features, the unassuming-looking Ulbricht was, in fact, the alleged operator of Silk Road, a notorious criminal online marketplace where drugs and guns could be purchased as easily as you'd order your SPF15 on Amazon. But far from living a criminal life, by all accounts Ulbricht lived the life of any other San Francisco hipster, chilling at coffee shops and frequenting social media sites. He hardly seemed to be the same "Dread Pirate Roberts" who'd allegedly ordered the killing of an embittered Silk Road user, and yet as FBI agents later uncovered, Ulbricht was, indeed, the Dread Pirate (or the Dread Pirate was Ulbricht, depending on how you want to spin it). It just goes to show you, don't judge a hacker by his hipster cover.
- Albert Gonzalez: In 2009, the then-28-year-old Albert Gonzalez was indicted for reportedly swiping around 130 million customer credit cards, according to TIME. But like Ulbricht, Gonzalez wasn't exactly a shadowy figure. In 2001, according to Wired, he attended a hackers' convention in Las Vegas and was photographed there wearing what appears to be a nametag provided by the convention. And far from inputting malicious code in some filthy basement, Gonzalez chose instead to take the money he'd swiped from people and use it to live the high life. The young man bought a BMW and a nice Miami condo at which to park it. He had nearly $2 million in cash lying around at the time of his arrest. And he apparently named his major hacking effort "Operation Get Rich or Die Tryin'," in what appears to be a tribute to the rapper 50 Cent. But like Ulbricht, Gonzalez has the inside of a prison cell to call home these days. Still, both these men enjoyed a span of time, however brief, where they lived above the law.
We encourage all of our clients, no matter how big or small, to take the appropriate precautions to protect your business against people like these. If you aren't sure where to begin, a trusted Fonality partner may be able to help.