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MMA fighter goes pound-for-pound against cybercrime after hacking | #cybercrime | #infosec | #hacking | #aihp

Deerfield Beach resident Stephanie Mankin broke through the mixed martial arts ranks, becoming one of the first female fighters to enter the sport. But recently, she had to fight an invisible opponent: a cyberattack.

“I felt like I got the wind knocked out of me when all my social media was hacked,” she said.

But she said she knew she had to fight back.

With full names, locations, jobs, headshots and emails available, the amount of information social media users feel comfortable posting online can vary. But every year, many people become vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“It’s become not-so-user-friendly,” Mankin said. “I couldn’t get ahold of anyone, and when these things happen, you panic. All you can do is sit and wait; it’s not like you can just walk up to them, and beating the snot out of someone isn’t exactly prolific.”

Raised between Florida and New York, Mankin’s uncle was labor leader, politician and philanthropist David Dubinsky, who was instrumental in establishing the New York garment industry.

“I was born into heavy-hitting legacies,” she said. “It put weight on my shoulder, leading to anger management.”

Also she said her paternal grandfather was alleged New York crime boss Saul “Shoosh” Mankin, her namesake.

“By 9 years old, I was an angry little child,” she said. “My parents felt it’d be best to channel it through the martial arts and boxing. I then progressed to kickboxing, to MMA, and then I got scouted.”

At 18, Mankin said she was recruited by MMA fighter Randy Couture, was quickly signed by MMA Crossfire, became one of the first professional female fighters and had an undefeated career.

Mankin is also a motivational public speaker, fashion influencer and designer.

Stephanie Mankin is also a motivational public speaker, and fashion influencer and designer. (Adrienne Mazzone/TransMedia Group/Courtesy)

“Just because you may have been born into something, doesn’t mean you can’t write your own chapter,” she said. “Create your own legacy and write your own world. Life is a blank book and you write every chapter.”

While visiting the eye doctor one day, her phone kept going off with text messages and notifications.

“Some kid or guy has completely taken over everything on my social media,” Mankin said. “He [the hacker] said I do this for a living and I’m extorting you.”

In a few hours, Mankin’s more than half a million followers started receiving off-putting messages, prompting hundreds of thousands to stop following. The hacker demanded money. Mankin refused.

“This guy hit my pocket in every way possible,” she said. “I’m just used to knocking people out. But it was like a sense of helplessness.”

Once Mankin refused, the hacker deleted valuable content, took over her WhatsApp account and plastered her private cell number and address across the web. Mankin called the police and filed a report.

“My cellphone carrier was pinging towers from Turkey to the country Georgia and then he managed to hit the U.K.,” she said. “I was told it started early morning when I was sleeping. He deleted my entire Instagram to the point where we couldn’t restore it.

“Even with starting over, you get scared. He was in my phone, and to this day, I don’t know who or where he is or what he has; that’s a violation,” she said.

That’s when she moved to a new home in South Florida.

Mankin got FBI agents involved to help her. She said they launched an investigation and Mankin handed over the chilling messages she exchanged with the hacker.

“Since it was extortion on a high profile, I filled out forms and they have the screenshots, the photos, and the access of what this hacker is doing and has on me,” she said. “Growing up, we always had bodyguards to protect us. But I never thought to secure myself.”

MMA fighter Stephanie Mankin has had an undefeated career. (Adrienne Mazzone/TransMedia Group/Courtesy)

Cybersecurity focuses on protecting electronic information on websites, networks or devices from hackers. Through advanced technology and sophisticated processes, cybersecurity professionals help keep data safe and accessible.

“That’s when I met my cyber bodyguard,” Mankin said. “Meeting Amir [Sachs] saved my life and he ran the show.”

She recruited the help of renowned cyber security expert Amir Sachs, co-author of “Managing Your Business Risk in the Cybersecurity Minefield” and founder and CEO of Blue Light IT in Boca Raton. He has over 25 years of experience in mitigating cyber threats.

Since 2008, the Boca Raton-based company has provided businesses nationwide with cyber security services as well as manager IT services. From virus removals to full cloud protection, Sachs worked with Mankin to help restore her social media platforms.

“I’ve been involved with technology since I was 13 years old,” Sachs said. “It started in 1970 and I’ve been doing this for many years. I’ve even seen hospitals get hacked.”

Since working with Mankin, Sachs said he would like to create community workshops teaching the importance of cyber security.

“Anytime you are presented with a message that ‘this is urgent, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ when online, this is a sign that someone is about to scam you,” he said. “Or if you get an email stating it’s your uncle you didn’t know from Nigeria or Scotland, or a long-lost family member who moved to Japan after the war. Even if it’s true, they’re not going to ask you for $13,000 ahead of time before they give it to you or meet and are saying they’ll eventually give you $3 million.”

Sachs said his company is doing a free online course on their website on how someone should be protecting their social media.

“There’s a lot to know — like don’t reuse the same passwords on multiple platforms,” he said. “Once hackers have it, they can take it to the dark web, and if you reuse the passwords, you’re only making it easier for them to get you from every angle.”

Even with the FBI involvement, it took weeks for Sachs to successfully restore Mankin’s rightful ownership to Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.

The hacker remains at large, with cell tower pings tracking him to multiple potential sites overseas. The FBI investigation is ongoing.

“There’s physical fighting and then mental fighting,” Mankin said. “It’s the wild, wild west out there and it’s like being in a dark parking lot alone when you’re online. Pull your face away from the screen and take a step back into reality, and the reality is, we need to remind ourselves that whether it’s physical or mental, we have to fight the good fight. We have to keep our security and safety when online or in general.”

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