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Watching Your Wallet: Ransomware payments reach $400M globally

Watching Your Wallet: Ransomware payments reach $400M globally
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:43 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - With just one click, one of the most intimidating cyber-attacks can easily make its way into your workplace.

Ransomware has taken down private and public companies, from hospitals to local governments and even school systems.

Related: Michigan fights millions of cyberattacks daily

It’s a crime even the White House is tracking closely. Ransomware payments reached more than $400 million globally in 2020, and topped $81 million in the first quarter of 2021.

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts files on a victim’s computer or server, making them unusable. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Christopher Cope said it’s one of the most costly crimes businesses face.

“Somebody opens up a trusted email. Clicks on a link and the next thing you know they are infected with ransomware and it shuts down an entire company,” Cope said.

Cyber criminals will demand a ransom in exchange for providing a key to decrypt the victim’s files. These attacks are becoming more frequent, more targeted and more sophisticated.

“Its super profitable for cyber criminals,” said Sean McDermott. “It’s easy to infect people.”

McDermott is the intelligence analyst with an FBI cyber squad. He said it’s a crime of opportunity and any company can be hit.

“Most often it’s large companies only because they tend to pay the most ransom,” McDermott said. “They have the most to lose and so that’s why we see a lot of large companies, but any end user can be impacted.”

It’s why the FBI does not recommend you pay the ransom. In many cases, the files are not returned if you do. Instead, the agency said you should focus on securing your network, which can be as simple as making sure you download every software update.

McDermott said it’s also a good idea to keep backups of your system offline.

“Having a good back up. A robust backup system is very crucial because you don’t want to have your backups connected to your same system that you’re actually backing up. The way that this ransomware works is they can move through a network very quickly,” McDermott said. “Make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and run regular scans. Regularly keep your employees and coworkers informed about the type of emails not to open and create a plan to keep your business running in the event of a cyber-attack.”

More: Watching Your Wallet

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