Every few months, it seems that new reports emerge outlining the latest virus or other hacking strategy that has the potential to affect Internet users across the globe. In fact, these have become so common there's a worry that individuals are becoming desensitized. For instance, take the recent Heartbleed bug. While many people are sure to have changed their passwords in the wake of the situation, chances are good that others decided not to, thinking that if they didn't see any evidence of identity theft on their bank statements, they didn't have to worry about anything.
Plus, it's not like anyone is going to stop using the Internet. It's become a basic part of our everyday lives at this point. Consider this: Almost 90 per cent of households in Canada are connected to the Internet, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority's 2014 World Factbook revealed. These people go online for everything from paying bills to talking to friends to watching TV. They're not just going to upend their lives because criminals want to trick people.
It's all about staying alert and aware of your digital surroundings. This is certainly true now, as news of the massive, worldwide spread of a piece of malware - BlackShades - has become known.
What is BlackShades?
Unlike some of the more famous viruses or hacker rings, chances are good that not many people have heard of BlackShades - yet. According to CTV News, BlackShades is a type of malware nefarious characters download to tap into their victims' computers remotely. It essentially gives the criminals full reign over others' devices.
"You can record information that they're typing in, see what they're doing, turn on their webcam or listen in. You can do whatever you want," Ottawa's Defence Intelligence Information Security Expert Keith Murphy told the source.
As CNN Money explained, this malware can sell for as low as $40 online, meaning that virtually anyone can use it.
The current situation
It recently came to light that numerous hackers across the globe are using this malware to extract information from other individuals, a lot of whom are unaware that their devices have been corrupted. The news outlet reported that authorities in a number of countries, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, began making arrests in mid-May. More than 90 arrests have been made so far, many after cases of extortion and bank fraud.
What's happening in Canada
Canadians simply need to follow the guidelines for staying safe online, as they should always be doing, and there should be no worries about BlackShades. Things like frequent virus scans, creating firewalls and installing popup blockers are crucial.
That being said, Canadians do need to be aware of the dangers, because authorities have acknowledged that the nation is one of the largest targets of criminals using the malware. CTV News reported that Murphy stated Canada is "definitely at the top of the target list."
The main reason for this is the close relationship between Canada and the United States, Murphy told the news outlet. Hackers want to exploit this fact and find out secrets. However, the source made it clear that individuals, not just governments, need to take the proper precautions.