If the recent Ashley Madison hack proved anything, besides the fact that 37 million people are interested in dating outside their marriage, it's that hacker threats must be taken seriously. Whoever the so-called Impact Team hackers are, they initially gave Ashley Madison's parent company, Avid Life Media, a 30-day warning.
If Avid complied and took down the site, the hackers wouldn't expose the names and email addresses of Ashley Madison's millions of members. Avid didn't give in, and now we know that reality TV stars and D.C. politicos are cheaters.
There are more serious versions of this type of hack called ransomware. It's as sinister as it sounds.
Hackers infect your computer with a virus that freezes it, usually with a huge "ransomware" spelled out on your screen. They take control of the computer and everything on it, from photos to financial information. Your anti-virus software can't do much about it.
To get your computer back, or your extremely personal videos or recorded phone calls, they demand money. Hence, ransom.
You can imagine worse ransomware hacks. So, you can't even imagine that someone would give the world step-by-step instructions to create their own, right?
But that's just what Turkish cybersecurity expert Utku Sen has done. He posted the source code for ransomware on GitHub, and it's free for anyone to use. He has since added a rather pitiful warning for users not to use it as ransomware.
Instead, he says, he posted the ransomware source code so that the good guys can develop systems to spot it before it does damage to your computer, and life. We'll see how that plays out.