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Understanding the dangers of ransomware, cyber attacks at the local level

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Cyber-attacks and ransomware don’t just happen to big-scale corporations, any company, any business in the greater Madison area can be hit.

Ransomware is when an online attacker cuts a system offline, then demands a payment to get the system working again, or they’ll expose important information.

“Ransomware is the corporate killer,” Bob Turner, UW-Madison Chief Information Officer said.

Turner says when it comes to cyber-attacks, there can be a ripple effect.

“For ransomware, they’re not after one thing, it’s how much damage they can do and what capabilities are left behind,” Turner said.

The Colonial Pipeline is just one example of that type of attack- its impacts stretching far past one company.

“It wasn’t just gas at the pump, it was fuel for aviation and other activities as well,” Turner said.

These types of crimes can begin several ways.

“Phishing is a great way to get started and that’s how a lot of these cyber-attacks begin,” Eric Bangerter, Vice Pres. of E-Commerce with UW Credit Union said.

Bangerter said phishing is when hackers attempt to access information on your computer by sending suspicious links to your e-mail, hoping you click on it.

“You’re busy in your day, you’re not thinking very hard, you click a link, next thing you know, malware is being installed on your computer, now it’s hanging out waiting for the next moment to strike,” Bangerter said.

The bottom line is, whether you’re at work or at home, pay attention to what you’re doing online to protect your private information.

“Ransomware is a disrupter and the best way to prevent a long disruption, make sure you have backups in place,” Turner said.

This can even happen in health care. The Ransomware Task Force reports that in 2020, 560 health care facilities were hit by ransomware.

Fastly is a major content delivery network for several sites. It experienced a disruption in its servers Tuesday morning, and was fixed after about an hour, however, it was not a victim of ransomware as far as the reports say.

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