DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Days after the men accused of taking part in an elaborate armed robbery to steal cryptocurrency from an elderly couple in Durham were charged federally, cybersecurity experts are offering advice on how to stay safe online.
An elderly couple was tied up and forced to transfer more than $150,000 out of their cryptocurrency account in April. Last week, two men were charged in a U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem in connection with the disturbing crime.
“This seemed like a very sophisticated operation, highly targeted,” said Brad Reaves, an associate professor of computer science at N.C. State University.
Warrants provide an in-depth look at how the suspects supposedly carried out the crime. With documents revealing they supposedly had access to a photo of the victim’s driver’s license, as well as knowledge of the balance inside his crypto account.
“If you’re storing stuff online, I mean it’s better to assume that that is not secure. I know that’s a scary thing to say publicly, but there is risks with everything that you store online,” said Blake Rea, who works for Petronella Cybersecurity & Digital Forensics based in Raleigh.
It’s unclear how the suspects gained access to this sort of information. The warrants reveal that investigators believe the victim’s email had been compromised.
“Robberies like this are not common, but email compromises are,” Reaves said.
To be more secure online, he suggests using a password manager and stresses the importance of using different passwords across each of your accounts.
“It makes it so much easier for the hackers to move from something that you might not consider as important, like a music service, into something that is much more important like an email or financial services.”
If you have cryptocurrency, Rea suggests keeping it safe, “Get a hardware wallet, so essentially you store your cryptocurrency offline in a physical token, so what that device does is it stores your access keys for the cryptocurrency.”
“Computer security and keeping yourself safe with computers and on the internet is not easy. We should be really careful when we talk about incidents like this not to blame the victims,” Reaves added.
Two men accused of being part of this robbery are charged with kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.