When you think about it, we are practically living in a ’90s science fiction movie. There are incredible technological advances everywhere --- mobile phones are almost as powerful as computers, self-driving cars are getting closer to being mainstream, and medical devices are becoming increasingly automated. Intelligent machines are now commonplace and they promise a healthier, safer, cheaper, and more convenient tomorrow for everyone.
And then comes jackware.
What is jackware?
Some would consider ransomware to be the worst type of malware. It robs victims of control over their own IT systems, preventing them from accessing their files and data unless they pay the perpetrators a specified ransom. For organizations that rely on data to operate and earn revenue, a ransomware attack can result in significant losses. To illustrate, 2017’s WannaCry ransomware attacks wreaked havoc across 150 countries, affected more than 200,000 computers, and resulted in over $4 billion in losses.
Now imagine a new type of ransomware that doesn't infect just computers. Jackware hijacks just about any embedded system, which is any device equipped with a specialized computing system. Embedded systems include mobile phones, ATMs, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and industrial machinery.
What makes jackware so harmful?
Both ransomware and jackware attacks can happen to any industry, but the prevalence of embedded systems means the latter has the potential to directly affect more people and cause greater damage. Realistic scenarios involving jackware include:
Total paralysis for companies
Ransomware attacks are potentially disastrous, but you can take measures to prevent them and mitigate their impact. Disaster recovery, for instance, enables you to quickly regain access to any affected data through the use of backups.
Unfortunately, a jackware attack does more than take your data hostage. It can cause your machinery, vehicles, and other equipment to malfunction or totally break down, putting your operations to a complete standstill. The damage may even be so severe that you’ll have to put your equipment up for repairs. Consequently, you will lose money and suffer downtime lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days.
Compromised IoT devices
Jackware attack perpetrators only have to target embedded devices to threaten a lot of people. For example, a hacker can infect an IoT manufacturer’s network with jackware. The perp can use this jackware to install malicious updates to all of the victim’s products. This will allow the criminal to steal data from and control IoT devices connected to these products. Common IoT devices include smart appliances, health monitors, fitness wearables, and security cameras.
Such malicious software updates can also be used to break infected devices, which would result in immense losses for manufacturers. Imagine being a car maker and having to recall all your products because jackware has caused the vehicles’ airbags to inflate two seconds too late.
Hijacked public vehicles
A lot of public vehicles use computing systems to provide passengers a safer and better riding experience. Airplanes, for example, have a flight control system composed of computers and sensors that eliminates the need for pilots to continuously steer the aircraft by hand. Unfortunately, these systems may be vulnerable to a jackware attack.
Using jackware, cybercriminals could encrypt the embedded devices in public transport, rendering these vehicles unusable. This would create chaos and may even paralyze the entire public transport system. Even worse, a jackware attack happening on a running vehicle can be catastrophic and lead to accidents.
Crippled medical devices
Ransomware attacks may be disruptive to healthcare providers, but these generally do not interfere with actual medical procedures. The same can’t be said about jackware.
Most medical devices today use embedded systems. Infecting these with jackware can lead to anything from erroneous diagnoses to treatment being withheld from patients who need it. In any case, such an attack can result in serious harm to patients.
What can you do about the threat of jackware?
Jackware is extremely dangerous and, considering how rapidly cyberthreats evolve, there’s no telling how worse it will become over time. If you want to prepare and protect your business from it, then you should avoid behaviors that can lead to malware infections. These include opening suspicious emails, carelessly downloading files, and using unvetted storage media on your office computers. You must also ensure that your employees are regularly trained in cybersecurity best practices.
Furthermore, you should partner with a managed IT services provider like Quicktech. With our first-rate cybersecurity services and years of experience, we can bolster your company’s defenses against evolving cyberthreats. Learn the cybersecurity solutions your business should implement by downloading this free eBook today.