“The attacks are increasing. They’re more sophisticated, and the attackers are more professional,” said Patrick Feehan, Information Security and Privacy Director, Montgomery College.
Ransomware is no stranger to the U.S. or the world for that matter.
It’s a cyberattack that hits technology users via email and even popular websites.
“Well, what CNN and many other organizations do is sell their space — the landing space,” said Joe Roundy, Cybersecurity Program Manager, Montgomery College.
And that space can be attained by hackers.
“If you downloaded the malware, it would do what ransomware does which is to encrypt all of your data and not in a pleasant way,” said Feehan.
A message appears on your screen demanding a ransom in exchange for the return of your information, which can be absolutely devastating for companies without back-ups.
“It’ll start a countdown clock on you, so it’s really set up to get everyone pretty excited,” said Feehan.
Last week, the ransomware dubbed “Petya” hit companies around the world including pharmaceutical giant Merck, law firm DLA Piper and snack maker Mondelez, all of which are based in Montgomery County.
“Ransomware has grown a lot over the last couple of years,” said Feehan. “It’s a criminal enterprise and profitable.”
Montgomery County is what Feehan calls a “target of opportunity” because of its plethora of research and federal agencies, but everyone is still vulnerable.
Feehan said it’s the users that are companies’, businesses’ and colleges’ “weak link.”
Technology is so prevalent and interconnected in today’s society, malware can spread like wildfire, even after one wrong click.
Montgomery College recently introduced a resiliency plan, in other words, how the college will bounce back if hit by a cyberattack.
“We’re fully knowledgeable that sometimes that you can’t protect yourself from it, because there are too many attacks,” said Feehan.