Wisconsin warns of ransomware threats

A message demanding money on a computer hacked by a virus known as Petya. The Petya ransomware cyber attack hit computers of Russian and Ukrainian companies on June 27, 2017. Donat Sorokin/TASS (Photo by Donat SorokinTASS via Getty Images)

Attorney General Josh Kaul is warning Wisconsinites to be aware of ever-evolving ransomware threats. 

A news release says the COVID-19 health crisis has increased online dependence, which has increased the chance of Wisconsinite exposure to cybersecurity crimes. To date, the FBI has received 41 ransomware reports in Wisconsin this year, compared to 30 reports total in 2020.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software cyber actors use to deny access to systems or data. The malicious cyber actor holds systems or data hostage until the ransom is paid. After the initial infection, the ransomware attempts to spread to shared storage drives and other accessible systems. If the demands are not met, the system or encrypted data remains unavailable.

A person may unknowingly download ransomware onto a computer by executing one of the following actions embedded with malware: opening an email attachment, clicking an advertisement, following a link, or visiting a website. Cyber actors continue to evolve their ransomware tactics over time to extort organizations and citizens. Awareness of these tactics is important to avoid unnecessary exposure.

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Better defense equals better offense

Cyber-attacks may be prevented by following the Department of Homeland Security – Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) best practices for managing risks posed by ransomware: https://www.cisa.gov/stopransomware 

Apply these practices to the greatest extent possible based on availability of resources:

  • Keep an offline backup of your files
  • Avoid unfamiliar contact through emails, links, advertisements, websites, text messages, etc.

To learn more, visit the CISA Ransomware Guide at, https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CISA_MS-ISAC_Ransomware%20Guide_S508C.pdf

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When in doubt, report it out

Victims of ransomware attacks are encouraged to resist any urge to fulfill a ransom request. Compliance in response to a ransom does not guarantee the captured data will be returned. Compliance also encourages perpetrators to target more victims and offers an incentive for other cyber actors to get involved in this type of illegal activity.

If you believe you are a victim of a ransomware attack:

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