When people like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak describe ransomware attacks as being as bad as the atom bomb, no one would blame you for rolling your eyes. After all, the atom bomb killed people and leveled entire cities. Ransomware is just a computer bug, right?
Unfortunately, phrases like "the great ransomware epidemic of 2016" are turning into "the boy who cried wolf." It's just a lot of hot air. You barely pay any attention anymore.
But a recent, terrifying cyberattack on a Michigan utility company is a reminder why everyone is talking about ransomware. Simply, these malware attacks can be deadly.
Just last week, the Lansing Board of Water & Light was shut down by a ransomware attack. BWL's phone lines were shut down and so was its accounting system, customer help lines, its email system, and the help line that customers call to report water issues and electric outages.
"This was a very sophisticated virus that blew right through a number of our security systems," said Trent Atkins, BWL's director of emergency management, in an interview with Network World.
You can imagine the devastation this attack could have caused for Michigan residents if their water service or electricity was shut down for an extended period of time. Note: Iranian hackers who hacked into a New York utility were recently indicted. Read about it here.
One of the scariest things about ransomware is how easily hackers can attack a system. Often, it starts with a phishing email scam. In this case, a BWL employee opened an email and clicked open an attachment. It looked like a legitimate email but hid the ransomware.
In these attacks, hackers from Russia and other countries, encrypt your computer files. You can't unlock them, unless you pay the hackers ransom with the untraceable currency called bitcoin. Then, if they stick to their word, they'll take you to a decryptor on an anonymous website like Tor to unlock your own computer files.
Bonus Tip: What would you do if ransomware attackers shut down your water and electricity for a few days or weeks, or months? Are you prepared? Here are a few things you can do now to keep your family safe:
- Have cash on hand
- Have easy access to a vehicle and extra gasoline
- Have a supply of food, water and warm clothes
- Protect your PCs, tablets and smartphones with a state-of-the-art Internet security system.
This Michigan utility ransomware attack is a stark reminder that your family and friends need to be prepared. Make sure you share this information with them right now. We've made it easy. Just click on one of these social media buttons to send your loved ones a reminder to be safe.