Editor's Note: When Extortion Threats Go Cyber - InformationWeek
Business & Finance
07:00 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl

Editor's Note: When Extortion Threats Go Cyber

Each year, InformationWeek gives a fellowship award to a student at Carnegie Mellon University who we think has an innovative idea, a compelling research project, or a groundbreaking product that's designed to advance business technology. Our recipient this year is Gregory Bednarski, a graduate student at the H. John Heinz III School of Policy at CMU. Greg has spent many months studying the impact of cyberextortion on U.S. business.

We're all aware of the damage that viruses, phishing, and other security breaches have on businesses. But cyberextortion is one of the most complex and potentially damaging exposures for businesses, and many don't prepare for it. According to Greg's research, 17% of the 100 small businesses he surveyed have experienced some form of cyberextortion. And that's a conservative number, according to some security experts.

Here's an all-too-real scenario that Greg describes: "A typical Monday. ... After answering or filing your important messages, you come across a note titled 'Customer Information,' but from an unfamiliar sender. You open the message only to find a listing of your largest customers' accounts, credit, order histories, and forecasts. ... Attached to the information is a simple threat: give us cash, or this information goes public. $27,000 divided equally and deposited into three separate foreign accounts, all in a country with tenuous relations with your government, before the week's end. What do you do?"

So, what do you do? This week, our security expert, George V. Hulme, digs deeper into the data, talks to victims of cyberextortion, and provides some tips on how to thwart it and what to do if it happens to you (see "Extortion Online"). Greg's full report is available at http://www.informationweek.com/1005/report.htm.

Stephanie Stahl,

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Stephanie Stahl's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Stephanie Stahl, please visit her page on the Listening Post.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll