The world of hacking has changed dramatically from what it was 20 years ago.
"I think about the old movie 'War Games'," said Mark Phipps, Special Agent for the FBI's Tampa Field Office.
"I came from an era of the hobbyist hacker, hackers that would do it for the challenge, the intellectual curiosity," explained Kevin Mitnick, a former hacker.
"Hackers have gone pro," said Stu Sjouwerman, CEO for the Clearwater-based company KnowBe4, which helps trains corporations on preventing their systems from being hacked.
Over in Eastern Europe, hackers are after one thing: your money.
"You're dealing with well-paid professionals that are driving big cars and get well paid and who are in 9-5 jobs in a completely criminal enterprise," said Sjouwerman.
He added that no one is off limits.
"They steal from churches, they steal from non-profits," Sjouwerman said, "To catch one, you have to be one."
That's why he brought in hacker turned good guy, Kevin Mitnick.
"I'm their chief hacking officer," Mitnick, said with a smile.
Kevin helps train employees to help stop hackers before they strike. They start by sending those unsuspecting employees fake phishing e-mails.
"And we see how many people click. Very interesting to know. Often 20, 30 percent," Sjouwerman said.
He even sent our own Mark Wilson a phishing e-mail that looked like it was from his producer. Mark would've probably clicked it. It's that simple. It's one of the reasons the FBI has now added Cyber Crime units at every local office. The threat is widespread and very real.
"There are foreign adversaries that are doing nothing all day but trying to get into these networks and use this data against us for either espionage or find a way into our defense systems," explained Special Agent Phipps.
Many of those defense systems and contractors are right here in the Tampa Bay area.
"Nothing is full proof," said Sjouwerman, including anti-virus software.
Phipps explained, "One of the ever growing attacks is denial of service attacks."
Denial of service attacks can shut down bank websites and prevent transactions, which cost the company thousands of dollars.
"There is such a thing as cyber warfare and that is what keeps me awake at night," said Sjouwerman.
He said today's hackers can use their skill as a dangerous weapon.
"They penetrate your water plants, they penetrate your electrical plants, your infrastructure and they plant what they call lodging bombs there that they can just trigger and the plant goes down."
When it comes to cyber wars, "The truth is the hackers are winning because the industry hasn't caught up or hasn't developed enough products and services to really stop this type of behavior," Mitnick said.
However, there are some solutions.
"We kinda create a human firewall," according to Sjouwerman.
Their training programs at KnowBe4 have been so successful, "There's a team in the White House that has been asking us about doing security training for them," he said.
The evolution of hackers is creating a revolution in fighting Cyber Crimes.
Here are some tips to protect yourself:
1. When using public kiosks to check e-mail, make sure nobody is watching when you enter your log in information. This is a popular way to steal credentials.
2. Public kiosks are hacking targets, and could be infected with malware that records keystrokes. Do not log into bank accounts or other confidential websites from shared computers, and don't type anything that you wouldn't want to see splashed across tomorrow's headlines.
3. Under no circumstances should you conduct any financial transactions - including online banking or purchases - over a wireless network. Your account information or credit card data can easily be compromised.
4. Exercise caution when connecting to a wireless network. Make sure you are logging into a legitimate event-sponsored network, and not a Wi-Fi network that is merely designed to look like an official network.
5. Turn off Bluetooth® on your mobile devices when you're not using it. Hackers can use Bluetooth to easily access your laptop, tablets and mobile phones.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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