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Cyber Safe Parent: Being vigilant against ransomware

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — In this Cyber Safe Parent segment, a big message for parents who are business owners or work in large companies is this: cyber attacks can happen at any point, and sometimes, the attackers are looking for a ransom.

“Ransomware is when you have a cybercriminal or somebody else that essentially is able to hack into your system,” said Metro Police Lieutenant Allen Larsen.

Last week, hackers targeted software that powers the websites of about 5,000 schools, compromising data. If hackers break through a firewall, the impacts can be company-wide.

“They start encrypting your data you have on your computer… compromising the server, all of the data, all of the customer files, the employee files,” Lt. Larsen said.

In the first week of the new year, ransomware caused healthcare workers in Jacksonville, Florida to have their pay delayed. Additionally, a county in Albuquerque, New Mexico has been forced offline and is still working on regaining control over their computers. In Columbus, Ohio, a business breach also affected nearly 5,000 people, all of their credit card numbers stolen.

“They encrypt that data… sometimes they’ll exfiltrate it, meaning they send it to their server so they save a copy of it. And what they’ll do is they’ll use that to extort money from you,” Larsen stated. “And then if you refuse to pay that ransom, the next thing they’ll do is they’ll try to blackmail you and say, hey look, if you don’t release $500,000 then we’re going to release all of this personal identifying information of your customers and employees on the dark web, and give it to all the criminals that are out there.”

For the best ransomware defense, experts recommend a wide-ranging approach, including multifactor authentication, using cutting-edge cybersecurity, updating software, and restricting administrative privileges. They also say to be wary of fishy emails, provide security awareness training to your team, and plan ahead for worst-case scenarios.

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