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Ransomware attacks on rise, cybersecurity expert weighs in

Published: May. 13, 2021 at 10:08 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Cybersecurity experts are weighing in on ransomware cyber attacks, saying they are more common than people realize.

Stanton Greenawalt, a cybersecurity professor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, said these types of attacks usually target larger industries like the pipeline, hospitals or schools, but they can happen to anyone at any time.

Greenawalt said it’s crucial for people to be careful of what they’re downloading to your devices, noting that hackers are on individuals’ systems for a while, months even before someone realizes.

Greenawalt said they first target where data is backed up and take control of it. He stresses that if a hacker has a person’s backup, “you’ve lost the war.”

In order to get back into your system, Greenawalt said the attackers demand money and it’s often in cryptocurrency.

He said it’s important to always remain on alert.

”We have to look at this, in my humble opinion, like we are at war and we have to come up with a way to do all the training necessary for people to have that very high sense of urgency, that your potential of getting hacked is very high,” Greenawalt said.

President Joe Biden just signed an executive order to better protect the entire country from cyber attacks. They’re calling it a first step and it would require new standards on software, but only for companies and products used by the federal government.

Congress will need to step in to require private companies who work on they country’s infrastructure to do the same.

The HGTC cybersecurity program is also preparing students for the future of cybersecurity attacks. Greenawalt said students are learning how to be offensive and defensive.

In the building, students utilize a student-made system. It’s a virtual server allowing students to log in remotely to practice accessing the routers, switches and firewalls.

They’re learning how to hack into the system and protect it.

Greenawalt said students are also learning the forensic side of handling attacks. He noted they’ll learn how to access who did it and when, helping to record the information to present in court and hold the hackers accountable.

According to Greenawalt, from the day students walk into the building, they are learning how to secure systems, starting with personal computers. The next step is to teach them how to secure a network and then hack into it.

“We are preparing these students to go out into the industry to help defend these organizations from these viruses occurring,” he said.

Greenawalt added the most important thing people can do is be careful of what they download from emails and attachments.

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