I-TEAM: Don't be held hostage by a cyber hacker

Lake City, Riviera Beach pay thousands in ransoms to get data back

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Experts say cyber hacking is worse than ever before, and something we use every single day is the door criminals are using to take over families, businesses and cities.

Using software called ransomware, thieves lock up data through encryption, making important files and functions impossible to access -- and it starts with the click of a button.

“It only takes one person in the company,” said Chris Freedman, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm OnDefend. “Even if you have 1,000 employees, it only takes one to take down an entire organization that easy.”

Cities held hostage by hackers

Ransomware is hitting close to home, recently taking over government computers and servers in Lake City and Riviera Beach, as well as the Georgia Court System.

The hackers usually demand a ransom days later, required to be paid in digital and virtually untraceable currency, like Bitcoin.

Some of the governments whose files were compromised paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the information back because it’s cheaper than starting from scratch.

There were 184 million ransomware attacks worldwide in 2018, according to Digital Guardian. The software, sent often by overseas hackers, is taking over computers and helping criminals steal hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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