Leeton residents are just as vulnerable to the ‘cyber-attack’ crippling a number of overseas companies at the weekend, a local IT expert has warned.
The attack, which hijacks computers and scrambles their information, holds its victims to ransom leaving them with only two options – pay up or lose the data forever.
The format of the attack itself is not unique, according to IT expert Livio Mazzon who says the ‘cryptolocker’ virus has been attacking in a similar manner for years, with two Griffith businesses previously among its victims – one having to shell out $6000 to the hackers.
“You get an email and they entice you to click on that hyperlink by saying it is your gas bill or your tax refund or something that uses social engineering to make you want to click on it,” Mr Mazzon explained on Monday.
But what is different this time around he said is the unprecedented potential for the virus to spread to other computers – thanks to a flaw in the Microsoft operating system.
“With this flaw it allows you to spread files from computer to computer in the background. . .that spreading part is I guess what has frightened people the most,” he said.
Normally, Mr Mazzon explained, viruses could infect any other computers they could see, something IT companies try to fight by restricting what can be accessed and controlling the exposure.
“But this circumvents that because it is not looking at accessible shares anymore. . .it is a file sharing service so it can go on any computer,” he said.
“It is going through a backdoor because of the flaw.”
Mr Mazzon said Microsoft had previously identified the flaw in March of this year and released a fix.
“But of course not everyone buys the fix,” he said.
We are globally connected so it is just as much of a threat to us as it is for the companies in Spain and elsewhere overseas.Livio Mazzon
Mr Mazzon spent a good part of Monday morning fielding calls from concerned customers about whether they themselves were vulnerable to the attack, which has already hit 200,000 victims in 150 countries in just one weekend.
The reality, he says, is everyone is at risk.
“We are globally connected so it is just as much of a threat to us as it is for the companies in Spain and elsewhere overseas,” he said.
“And it is an instant threat – right now everyone who has internet access or email is at risk.”
The IT expert was willing to share some tips on how Griffith’s population could protect themselves, beginning with a stern warning to not click on emails you don’t recognise.
“There are some techniques that can be taught very easily just to understand what is a virus and what is not,” he said.
“Awareness is so important because things like this get through the virus scanners, it is just an email that comes through and you click on it and then it pulls down the virus. . .so you need to avoid clicking on it.”
Mr Mazzon agreed the attack had come as a ‘wake-up call’ in today’s technology dependent society – emphasising the importance of backing up your data, his second piece of advice.
Simply backing up your computer on a hard drive is not good enough, he said, with anything plugged into your computer just as vulnerable in the event of an attack.
“You need to have your back-ups off-site or disconnected and the reality is one back-up is not enough, you need a rotation,” he said.
“For companies we recommend the last two weeks plus the last couple of months, so at least 12 back-ups.”
Veritech runs training courses for its clients on how they can protect themselves from such cyber attacks – but will also be holding a course in conjunction with the Griffith Business Chamber on June 15.
The course will be free for chamber members but others in the community can also attend at a cost.
Anyone interested in attending can contact the Griffith Business Chamber.