GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) — Hackers managed to disrupt operations at the JBS Meat Packing plant in Green Bay earlier this month as part of an international cyberattack on the company’s infrastructure in Australia and the United States.It’s the latest in a string of such attacks targeting businesses all over the country and around the world. Guarav Bansal is a professor of Information Systems at UW-Green Bay, and he says the attacks are only getting more sophisticated. Some criminal firms are even selling their technology to other individuals to launch their own attacks.“Ransomware has become very very sophisticated,” Bansal told WTAQ. “It has become ‘Ransomware as a service’. more and more people can use these ransomware services to carry out these attacks.”Ransomware is one of the most common and damaging types of cyberattack. A malicious program, downloaded through a phishing email attack, will encrypt files on an infected computer network, rendering them unusable. The hackers then demand money–almost always in a digital, untraceable cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Monero–in order to allow the victim to access their files again.
A ransomware attack is what hit the JBS servers in Australia and the United States. A similar attack was also responsible for the shutdown of the Colonial Gas Pipeline on the east coast, which caused massive jumps in gas prices. In both cases, the victims wound up paying the hackers. JBS reported paid around $11 million. Colonial Pipeline Company paid $4.4 million.
Bansal says the success of those recent attacks have made hackers even bolder–and that the situation will get worse before it gets better.
“Because they were willing to pay money, it actually emboldened these hackers,” said Bansal. “They will get more aggressive in demanding money and carrying out attacks…and this will only grow.”
Any company, large or small, can become a target. Especially at risk, however, are companies that are part of critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, electrical companies, and gas pipelines. Hackers, knowing how essential those services are, will target them in hopes they are paid quickly.
To make matters worse, Bansal says, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your IT security infrastructure is: you can still become a victim.
“You can have the best security infrastructure, but if your employees click on the links [in a phishing email], your security infrastructure will be compromised,” said Bansal.