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VERIFY: The malicious software behind the Colonial Pipeline attack known as ransomware

A cyberattack crippled the fuel supply of the East Coast. How did the hackers do it?

WASHINGTON — This whole fuel crisis got started by a cyberattack on colonial Pipeline’s IT infrastructure. Which led to fears of fuel shortage. That was followed quickly by panic gas-buying across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

All of this chaos was started by a ransomware attack, by a hacker group operating in Russia called, “Darkside.”

Question: 

What is a “ransomware” attack?

Our Sources:

 Two cyber security experts, Tom Romanoff from the Bipartisan Policy Center and Will Mendez from the cyber security firm, CyZen.

Answer:

A ransomware attack is like a hostage situation for computers or networks.

What We Found:

These ransomware attacks are becoming more and more common. Here in the DMV, last Fall Fairfax County schools got hit with an attack. The DC police department is still dealing with one.

To explain ransomware attacks you must start with what the software. The experts explained ransomware is a type of malicious software used to extort money, like a virus. The virus is usually sent in an email. People accidentally open the email, and the virus gets loose.

Ransomware does several things: it can lock up basic computer functions, lock up files, or steal the files and hand them over to the hackers. The attack ends when you pay the hackers a ransom.

“If a strong encryption is used, it can take thousands, if not millions of years, to break the encryption, given the strength of today's computers,” Romanoff said.

According to our experts, since the pandemic started-ransomware attacks have skyrocketed.

The reason?

The pandemic forced many companies to go to remote work. Not every company had time to prepare their network security for this abrupt change.

“A lot of folks think that security is maybe a technology that I buy, or something like that,” Mendez explained. “But it's really a process. It's a layered approach.