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For PC Virus Victims, Pay or Else

CULVER CITY, Calif. — Kidnappers used to make ransom notes with letters cut out of magazines. Now, notes simply pop up on your computer screen, except the hostage is your PC.

In the past year, hundreds of thousands of people across the world have switched on their computers to find distressing messages alerting them that they no longer have access to their PCs or any of the files on them.

The messages claim to be from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some 20 other law enforcement agencies across the globe or, most recently, Anonymous, a shadowy group of hackers. The computer users are told that the only way to get their machines back is to pay a steep fine.

And, curiously, it’s working. The scheme is making more than $5 million a year, according to computer security experts who are tracking them. More...

12-06-2012 17:36

Cyberattacks Could Become as Destructive as 9/11: Panetta

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies are seeing an increase in cyber threats that could become as devastating as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks if they aren’t stopped.

“A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11,” Panetta said last night. “Such a destructive cyber terrorist attack could paralyze the nation.”

The Defense Department is drafting new rules that will allow the military to defend U.S. “national interests” in addition to its own computer networks, Panetta said in prepared remarks delivered in New York on board the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that’s now a museum.

Panetta offered the highest-level confirmation to date of recent cyber attacks on U.S. and international computer networks and faulted Congress for failing to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation this year. In the absence of such a law, President Barack Obama’s administration may issue an executive order, Panetta said. More...

10-12-2012 15:50

Cyber Attacks on U.S. Banks Expose Computer Vulnerability

Cyber attacks on the biggest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) & Co., have breached some of the nation’s most advanced computer defenses and exposed the vulnerability of its infrastructure, said cybersecurity specialists tracking the assaults.

The attack, which a U.S. official yesterday said was waged by a still-unidentified group outside the country, flooded bank websites with traffic, rendering them unavailable to consumers and disrupting transactions for hours at a time.

Such a sustained network attack ranks among the worst-case scenarios envisioned by the National Security Agency, according to the U.S. official, who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly. The extent of the damage may not be known for weeks or months, said the official, who has access to classified information. More...

09-28-2012 16:33