• Andy Murphy

What You Need to Know About Ransomware


What is a Ransomware Attack and why Should You Care?


Ransomware attacks are all over the news and for the foreseeable future, they are going to continue to plague businesses and government entities. But we as protector parents need to be aware of them and how they may affect our family’s ability to move and to be safe.

A ransomware attack is when hackers get into a system and deploy malware to encrypt important data on that network.

By encrypt, I mean scramble the information. This makes a company's data useless and can halt productivity if the information is important enough. Then the hackers will send a ransom note and ask for a digital payment usually in Bitcoin to provide you a key to descramble your own data.


So basically the hackers make your data unusable but offer to give your data back for a fee. Of course, there are variations of this type of attack, but that’s a general overview of digital extortion.


Recently major hacks have made the news like Colonial Pipeline and JBS meat plants. These are some of the attacks that the public knows about.


Let me tell you there are many more that go unreported by the companies themselves because they don’t want to look bad to investors. Breaches and ransomware are bad for business.


Also, know that the media doesn’t always report attacks when they happen. In fact this year Cox Media Group websites were hit and that went a few days before it was reported on the news. And one day during the attack some local stations couldn’t produce their own newscast because the ransomware attack continued.


Back in 2019, Urban One lost $1 million in revenue because of an attack and as I said before, these types of incidents are bad for business. Local advertisers will pull their dollars from a station that can’t produce a show or display their digital ads correctly. So here we see that dollars trump reporting.


Hacking and Targets


There isn’t a big ransomware heist where hackers repel down from helicopters and put in malicious code via a black and red USB drive while wearing masks. These attacks start off as a simple click in a phishing email using some sort of social engineering.


Ransomware Groups (sometimes called gangs) may target a particular company for a single purpose, but most of the time they will phish thousands of people and see what they get. Sometimes the hack could be for some political or social reason, but most likely it’s for money and power.


What to do when a Ransomware Attack Occurs


The first option a company has when they have been hacked is to pay the ransom and hope they get the key to unlock all of their data. There is no guarantee that the hacker will send a key, they may take the money and run. Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom of just 75 Bitcoin. But that’s $4.4 million dollars to the rest of us.


The other option is not to pay and rebuild your network from scratch and cut out all of that infected data that the hackers got. That’s a big undertaking, but if a company can rebuild for cheaper they will.


Unfortunately, Colonial Pipeline had to rebuild their system after they paid because the key was too slow in rebuilding the ransomed data.


And of course, you can get law enforcement involved. Colonial Pipeline got the FBI on their case pretty quick. In fact, the Department of Justice says they were able to recover 63.7 Bitcoins or about $2.3 million dollars.


For those of you doing quick math there, yes, it seems the value of Bitcoin might have changed from ransom to recovery. But multiple sources are reporting those numbers including the Department of Justice.


Protecting our Families


As protector parents, why should we care about ransomware if we’re just normal citizens? Your company might get hit with an attack that may halt production and therefore your paycheck.


In the case of the Colonial Pipeline attack, we saw a disruption in the flow of gasoline. This particular attack affected me not because of any direct reason but for the indirect effect of panic buying.


Gas stations in my area sold out of gas in a day. In North Carolina, I saw it reported that 63% of stations there had no gas. A gas scare is critical to infrastructure and to families.


Hacks and ransomware attacks will continue and unfortunately so will panic buying. We need to keep in mind that many of our good-intentioned fellow Americans are frantic and may believe rumors more than facts.


I admit panic buying has taken me by surprise before because I don’t think that way. So I’ve had to change how I see trends and the news to consider what I should do to keep my family running. Of course, you can always stock up on the basics so that your home can weather any storm - digital or not.


I’m going to challenge you to shift your thinking to see what might spark the next round of panic buying so you can be ahead of the game.


Ransomware seems to be a trend right now. Personally, I think it will reach a pinnacle soon and will start to decline as companies become more aware, but this form of extortion will always exist and it will remain a threat.

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