Published on October 10 2017

How to Beat Cybercriminals at Their Own Game, Part II

Justin's note: As the world becomes more connected thanks to the internet, it also becomes more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Each day brings a new threat. And protection becomes even more indispensable.

Today, I’m sharing Part 2 of a special interview on this topic featuring Doug Casey, John Hunt, and Durk Pearson. (If you missed Part 1, catch up here.) Below, the guys share some specific ways to protect yourself from hackers…


Durk: I really think that it should be open season on black-hat hackers. In the physical world, I’m in a “Castle Doctrine” state. If a burglar breaks into my house I could shoot them dead, perfectly legally, when they come through the window. Unfortunately, under the Federal Law, you don’t have the right to do that to a cyberthief. So I really do not advise hacking the bad guy.

Passive defenses are great and they’re ethical. Like I said, you don’t have to run faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than the next guy and that’s really, really, really easy when the most common password is 123456.

John: Nonetheless, it would be fun building a team of mercenary vigilante white-hat hackers, combined with a secretive on-the-ground force, like the A-Team. I wonder if it could be profitable.

Doug: I really like the idea of fighting fire with fire. But, as Durk said, there are dangers. It would take a real expert to launch a counteroffensive.

Could it be a profitable venture? I think so. All the people who’ve been hurt by criminal hackers would likely put up a bounty. Or buy insurance for the future from a computer “A-Team.” Or a Paladin, like in Have Gun, Will Travel.

The problem is mostly the legal system in today’s world. You’d be accused of vigilante action, and would likely be prosecuted much worse than the actual criminals.

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Durk: There are a million black-hat hackers, all smarter than most people, out hacking right now. You’ve got to do something about it. If you use Firefox, with Privacy Badger, NoScript, Cookie Controller, Random Agent Spoofer, and Adblock Plus, you’re in better shape than 99.9% of the population, right there.

Next, you turn up your firewall on your router, DSL, or cable modem to maximum, and you turn up your software firewall to maximum, and you give up chat and instant messaging. Turn off the ability for an external signal to wake up your computer.

If you did just these simple things, you’d be safer than 99.9999% of users. Bad guys realize that you are a hard target and say, “I’m not going to waste my time on it.” Remember, you don’t have to be more secure than a bank because you don’t have anywhere near as much to attract the bad guys.

John: These interventions would have protected Hillary Clinton’s server?

Durk: From what the media says happened, yes. But, actually, I don’t think Hillary Clinton’s server was hacked. I think that what happened is a guy who had administrative access to that server walked in, stuck his thumb drive in the USB slot, downloaded everything, and walked out with it.

The timestamps of when the files were recorded are consistent with exactly USB 2.0 loading speeds – much faster than I would expect the DNC to have for their outbound internet email pipe.

Doug: All we really know about that episode is what we read in the press. And I have very little faith in either the competence or the integrity of the average reporter or editor today. Many of them are leftist ideologues who’ve picked up lots of bad ideas in journalism school. We’re no longer living in the era of H.L. Mencken, or even Clark Kent.

The government understands the importance of the media for swaying public opinion. They’ve largely compromised the major media. I treat the media as entertainment and propaganda, not information.

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Durk: Believe me, Russia did not want Trump elected. Do the math on oil prices and you see that US fracking costs Russia $180 billion a year, almost 10% of their GDP due to fracking’s dropping crude prices by $50 per barrel. Hillary would have stopped fracking. Trump supports it and wants to deregulate.

So, really, why would Russia want Trump in office? Out of anybody who might have gained from such a hack, who’s a world-class hacker? The answer: China! They’re also the world’s biggest importer of oil: 8 million barrels a day. China is saving $400 million a day because of Trump’s election. They’re perfectly capable of hacking the DNC, giving the information to WikiLeaks, and making it look like the Russians did it.

By the way, oil prices being low is a good thing: Iran is able to afford a lot less terrorism than it used to afford. There’s a lot less money going to Hezbollah, to Hamas, to Al-Qaeda, you name it.

John: Doug, at one point, Durk told me that police steal $2.4 billion a year in the US via seizures and asset forfeitures. More than all burglaries combined. Cybertheft can be an even bigger concern. But all this protection can interfere with convenience.

Doug: Sure, it’s a real problem, and following Durk’s advice makes sense. But let’s not forget about the biggest thief that we each contend with every day: the taxman.

I’m not just amazed, but disgusted, at how the average American has come to believe the state has a right to his property. He doesn’t dispute their right to his income and property; he just kvetches about the amount. And then he whines about how government is “inefficient” – which is certainly true.

Thank God it’s inefficient, and we don’t get all the government we pay for. I’d say about 90% of government spending is totally wasted. Government theft overwhelms the amount stolen by private thieves.

John: How do you keep your stuff secure, Doug?

Doug: It’s not easy in today’s world, where privacy is an illusion, and secrecy is probably illegal. And the way laws and penalties are today, your right to any property is increasingly tenuous.

To start with, I use this ancient contraption, called a landline phone, whenever possible. It’s not secure from the NSA, but then what is?

I only just bought a cell phone a couple of months ago. I used to have one when they were the size of bricks, but I didn’t like to feel tethered to it. Now people are umbilically attached to the things. I only use mine when there are no alternatives. It’s mostly an expensive paperweight.

Cell phones are convenient, and increasingly necessary, but they’re also a huge danger.

John: Doug, you recently had a visit with John McAfee, a cybersecurity expert famous for creating the first computer anti-virus software. What did you take away from him about cybersecurity, and the future of privacy?

Doug: We spent a lot of time together. For one thing, he pointed out that mobile phones are much easier to hack than computers. As a trivial demonstration, in a couple of seconds he placed a call to my cell phone from that of a person with us – without her knowledge – hacking her phone with his.

Computer security? Fuhgedaboudit. He can tell what keys you’re using to encrypt outgoing messages, and can read the screen of any computer to see the incoming message.

My takeaway is that the advice Durk is giving – basically keep a low profile and don’t be stupid – is about your best defense in today’s world. Try to limit your use of electronic devices – although that’s getting harder to do.

John: Well, with the Equifax hack, each of us can have our identities stolen quite readily. It seems rather ironic that in order to be aware that our identities have been stolen, we have to interact with the same company that put us all at risk.

Durk: It is much worse than that. To check if you are affected by the Equifax hack, you have to enter your last name and the last six digits from your Social Security number. NoScript informed me that Equifax sends this information through Google!

They don’t warn you about that. They don’t promise that Google won’t sell this information. It would take very little time for Google’s computers to guess the first three digits, too. Outrageous!

Doug: I don’t do any computer banking. I stay off of social media, which is basically a waste of time anyway. I’m not likely to buy another new car, because they’re totally computer controlled and hackable. I don’t participate in surveys or opinion polls. And, most important, I’m diversified politically and geographically.

When I’m in Argentina, I can access all the latest modern tech, but it’s also much, much easier to cut myself off from it. If you live exclusively in the US, Canada, or the like, you’re a sitting duck in an electronic pond.

John: Thanks, gentlemen.


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