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Tech expert reacts to cyber attack against Colonial Pipeline, shares tips to protect yourself online

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The computer hack of the Colonial Pipeline is still triggering panic buying in Tallahassee.

The attack has raised concerns about how vulnerable our nation and its infrastructures can be to cyber attacks.

Blake Dowling of Aegis Business Technologies described this attack by ransomware as one of the most ruthless because it involves ransomware.

Dowling said ransomware traditionally comes though email.

He said it’s as simple as a user clicking what they might perceive to be a safe link that was sent to them through email. Ince the user clicks the link, then ransomware will encrypt that network, that compute, the fils and every other computer.

Dowling said hackers like with ransomware will ask for payment to restore the files back to normal.

“In this situation, there is evidence of double extortion,” said Dowling. “Because not only are they asking for money to get the encryption keys to restore the network, but they’re also asking or telling if the demand is not met and the ransom is not paid that they will release their data to the public.”

WCTV did reach out to the Colonial Pipeline, and in a statement as of Tuesday, they said they’ve delivered more than 950,000 barrels to various delivery point, but those markets do not include Tallahassee.

Dowling said that Colonial Pipeline hasn’t revealed how much ransom ware has asked for and said it’s likely they won’t reveal how much because they are private business.

Dowling said once the hacker is able to get in and encrypt the network, their files and every other computer on that same system. He said he’s seen school systems, small businesses and city governments all fall victim to cyber attacks with ransoms going as high as millions of dollars.

He said it’s important for companies to be mindful that these attacks can brought through email and they look legitimate, so users need to be hyper vigilant.

“Your password must be long and unique, at least 16 characters,” Dowling advised. “You must have an enterprise level fire wall. You should also have advanced threat protection tools that look for threats like ransomware and in some cases can actually block them. Traditional anti-virus, traditional anti-spam, this entire bundle will help you protect yourself as well as cyber insurance and robust backups.”

Dowling added that cyber security should be top of mind every day. He said it’s time for the federal government to help cyber security firms and small businesses fight overseas cyber attacks, but added that it should also serve as a wake up call to how vulnerable computer systems can be to attacks.

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