Consumer First Alert: Ransomware attacks on the rise
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Multiple people - including the Wisconsin Attorney General, the FBI, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - say Wisconsin businesses are targets of ransomware attacks.
Reports of the attacks have exploded during the pandemic, with cyberthieves locking computers, and hackers holding businesses hostage. The cyber criminals demand immediate payment to release data critical for a business.
So far this year, the FBI has received 41 ransomware reports in Wisconsin. That’s compared to 30 reports in all of 2020.
Josh Kaul, the Wisconsin Attorney General, is warning companies they should take precautions now.
“The more that people are aware of this danger and take steps to prevent it the less likely those criminals are to succeed,” said Kaul.
In order to help educate businesses, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Wisconsin - as well as the FBI, IRS, and FTC - came together in a webinar to explain how cybercriminals attack.
“It can happen to anyone, not just large companies, even government agencies are now immune. A couple of months ago, a ransomware attack compromised the systems of the Illinois State Office of the Attorney General in my state, taking them entirely off line for several weeks,” said Todd Kossow, the Director of the Midwest Region of the FTC.
The attacks often come in the form of phishing e-mail.
In a business e-mail scam, also known as a BEC, one wrong click can cost a company.
“In a simple bank robbery, or even a robbery of a convenience store, is only hundreds or low thousands dollar amount, but the average BEC is in the thousands, hundreds of thousands, or we’ve even seen millions,” said Christopher Farrell, a special agent for the FBI.
Investigators say a major key to prevention is educating employees.
“If you get an out of the blue request that isn’t normal, get on the phone, walk down the hall, contact that person who sent it and make sure that indeed that it was/is going to happen,” said James Temmer, the President and CEO of the Wisconsin BBB.
Consumer experts are advising companies to do the following:
- Back up data
- Keep security up to date
- Alert staff how to avoid phishing scams
“Generally, law enforcement will recommend you not pay, because even if you do.. but it’s up to you and you should talk to the FBI about your particular situation, whether you have backup, and whether the risks and costs of paying the ransom are worth it or not,” said Kossow.
Officials also urge you to report these attacks - even if you didn’t lose money -and make sure to have a plan to help you spot and avoid ransomware attacks.
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