All About Jackware: Malware that Can Hijack a Machine

June 18th, 2021

Ransomware is rampant, and while you might not have been a victim of a ransomware attack yet, the chances of being targeted by cybercriminals are high. Your security awareness, and sometimes pure luck, that has allowed the average user to escape the sophisticated traps set by hackers and cybercriminals.

We are living in a tech-enabled world, a world where the Internet of Things (IoT) makes daily life more comfortable and convenient for us. Yes, IoT is great, but our increasing reliance on such technologies means cybercriminals are eyeing them. These devices have the potential to be hijacked by malware, as criminals exploit their vulnerabilities to disrupt their functionalities.

Let’s take a closer look at this malware phenomenon.

What is jackware?

We’ve seen it happen in the movies: the intrepid hero is racing down the road in his or her car, and suddenly the villain somehow takes control and crashes the vehicle. It’s a thrilling bit of Hollywood theatrics, but the sort of software capable of taking control of a car really isn’t that far off.

Welcome to the world of jackware.

The primary purpose of your car is to get you from point A to B. But, while doing its main job, your car offers you plenty of features that improve convenience and comfort as well as enhance car performance. This is done through a host of embedded devices in your car. These devices are processing data and also communicating with other devices, seamlessly, without you being aware of it.

These embedded devices are vulnerable to hacking. But, more on that later.

Cybersecurity professionals are now worried that with the evolving nature of malware, the risk of jackware is now increasing. We’ve long focused on ransomware’s ability to encrypt files on your PCs, Macs and mobile devices, but jackware will impact the connected physical devices and machines we commonly use in our daily lives. That action movie scene we talked about earlier? Imagine you are in your car, and the car accelerates without you pushing the pedal. You receive a call, saying pay up if you want the control of your car.

In that sort of situation, for most of us, we will not wait even a split second to pay up. A less over the top, but still scary situation, could be something as simple as locking your car doors and asking for a ransom to let you in, or out.

It seems far-fetched, but ransomware sounded far-fetched when cybersecurity professionals first started having discussions around it.

Such attacks could become common in the cyberattack ecosystem very soon.

Why is jackware so dangerous?

Malware has undergone rapid evolution over the years. While doing so, it has kept up with the evolution of technology. Every day now we use small devices that are really just very small computers that help us stay connected. These small embedded devices and are highly specialized as they deliver specific features. We call them embedded as they are typically included within another device.

Jackware is dangerous because it can target these embedded devices. Previously, malware was restricted to computers, but with the rise of embedded devices, malware can now become an omnipresent threat. It can reach your cars, the smart home systems installed in your homes, the smart system in your offices, and even critical infrastructure. An infected physical device can have a direct adverse impact on your lives. With just a few lines of code, a hacker can infect an embedded device and shut it down or even control it remotely, impacting the device ecosystem the embedded device resides within.

Earlier, we envisioned a hacker taking over a car, but think bigger. Jackware can also cause disruptions in power supply – take another Hollywood fantasy, the Taking of Pelham 123, where a train is hijacked. The scope of sabotage is limitless and the resulting chaos has terrible potential.

A clear danger

So how do we get ready to stop jackware? The answer is better protection. While new, advanced features in machines are welcome, integrating advanced security techniques that safeguard these systems from an ever growing threat landscape should also be in place. We as end users must become more aware of how smart machines can be compromised. Do not take security of your smart systems for granted. Before you buy any device/machine with smart features, find out how they are secured, if at all. If these devices deliver a critical functionality, all the more reason that you take deliberate care before using them. Don’t give cybercriminals an opportunity to disrupt your life.

In cybersecurity, knowing your enemy is the first step towards protecting yourself. The second step is deploying a layer of cybersecurity that will safeguard you from this enemy. It is imperative that you deploy the best cybersecurity for your home Macs and PCs. Sophos Home delivers the same powerful, business-grade security trusted by IT security professionals. It delivers AI backed malware detection that protects home computers from never-before-seen cyber threats.

The key here is to develop a sense of heightened awareness about the growing threat landscape and identifying the right protection that helps guard against sophisticated threats.

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