What You Should Know About Killware

Cybercriminals targeting private data or money are a thing of the past. Now there is killware. This worrying new form of cybercrime manages to shut down hospitals and manipulate critical infrastructure.

Killware is made up of two English terms. Kill means to kill, and ware derives from the term Malware.

The name is a program. Killware can cause severe physical damage or even death. While most malicious programs steal private information or extort money from victims, killware is in a completely different league of cyber threats. The attacks can be against individual victims or the entire country’s population.

We now spend a large part of our lives online, and even our homes rarely function without connected devices. This means that we are tied to a national and international network infrastructure. If this is attacked by killware, the impact can be devastating for thousands of people.

A new dimension of cyber threat

While so-called ransomware is typically used to extort money from a victim, the same type of software can also be used as killware.

Ransomware works by taking control of specific systems or files, making a company’s databases inaccessible, for example. This allows the attacker to demand a ransom in exchange for access.

But what if the same software is used to shut down a hospital? Such a digital attack could put people’s lives in genuine danger. At this point, traditional malware crosses the line into killware.protect yourself against killware

On the trail of the virtual serial killer

There are several scenarios in which killware would have catastrophic consequences for many people – and the danger is more real than meets the eye.

Power grids, weather warning systems, and water treatment plants are all partially online these days and are therefore vulnerable to attack. They have been the target of cyber attacks in the past.

Hospitals are one of the most important institutions in our societies. Smooth functioning is the difference between life and death. A cyber attack in Düsseldorf in September 2020 showed a ransomware attack can paralyze a hospital’s systems and seriously endanger patients. Medical facilities in Europe, the UK, and the US have all come under attack. We shouldn’t assume that this type of attack will decrease in the future.

How smart is your home? Most households already have at least one networked device. Voice assistants and vacuum cleaner robots are efficient for everyday use. You can also switch smart stoves on and off when you are out and about. But whoever gains virtual access to the devices can also break into the house digitally. Hackers can not only steal data this way but also turn on devices and put everyone living in the house at risk.

Trust is good, control is better: defense against killware

Killware is a problem that will only worsen in the years to come. Unthinkable when terrorists or belligerents handle this kind of malware. In the case of hospitals and supply systems, the government should provide the necessary protection. However, for the networked devices in our own homes, each of us can do something to ensure that we do not become victims of killware.

If you have smart devices around the house, you should ensure your WiFi is secure with strong, unique passwords. Use a mixture of numbers, symbols, and digits. Hackers can crack many traditional passwords in seconds, so don’t make it easy for them.

Also, add an extra layer of security by setting up a VPN (virtual private network) on your router. This ensures all traffic within your home network is encrypted. With services like NordVPN, it becomes much more difficult for criminals to use killware — or any other form of malware — to infiltrate your connected devices. Millions of people are already using the service and have had the NordVPN experience – all-around cyber security in one click.

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