Scary 'RansomWare' Warnings at Local Cyber Security Conference

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The comments that were made at the annual CyberSecurity conference sponsored by the St. Mary's University Center for Terrorism Law were enough to make everybody, even Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, stay awake nights, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Participants said RansomWare, as demonstrated by last month's eruption of the 'WannaCry' RansomWare virus, is the wave of the future.

Martin Tully, co-chair of the Data Law Practice Group at Akerman LLP, a prominent Chicago based law firm, says you should plan on becoming a victim, and he says it isn't just your computer that's vulnerable.

"There was a hotel in Austria earlier this year where bad actors got into the computer systems and locked all the doors in the hotel, and the guests couldn't get into their rooms until the hotel paid a ransom," he said.

Tully says with more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on Earth, and more devices being connected every day through what is known as the Internet of Things, all of those devices are vulnerable to being hacked and held for ransom.

"You can imagine your Nest system being taken over in the winter and your heat being turned off until your pipes freeze, unless you pay a ransom," he said.

Tully said from personal health items like a 'FitBit' to your car, to live preserving medical equipment, RansomWare hackers have developed a powerful business model.

"Unlike the old days when somebody would grab your stuff and try to sell it, they don't have to do that any more," he said.  "That doesn't hjappen with RansomWare.  All they have to do is take your stuff, make it inaccessible to you, and make you pay to get it back.  What a beautiful approach."

Some participants at the event, however, said criminals may have overreached, and are destroying that model.

Ron Plesko, a computer security consultant for the firm KPMG, pointed out that during the recent 'WannaCry' outbreak, some people who paid in Bitcoin for their hacked files to be returned didn't get their filed unencrypted.  He says if the hackers are either unwilling or unable to release the files they have seized, it will destroy the impact of RansomWare.

Tully said the best response to make sure you have back up software and all data needed to operate devices stored in another location, so you can retrieve it easily to get your smart devices working again.  That way, he says, you will be immune from RansomWare attacks.

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