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In Florence seminar, IT pro offers advice on security for start-ups

Article written BY JOE PERRY Morning News,

FLORENCE, S.C. – Robby Hill wanted to scare everyone.

The founder of HillSouth brought his IT wisdom to Tuesday morning’s Small Business Series seminar at First Reliance Bank’s training center and told the small crowd he wanted to scare them by explaining ransomware.

“I’ve never seen more specific targeting,” he said, referring to a roughly three-year-old computer virus tactic that locks up a hard drive that will only be freed upon paying thousands of dollars in Bitcoin, an untraceable electronic currency. “I have a lot of stories – very scary.”

In offering advice to start-ups, Hill advised people to continually back up their data and if hit with ransomware, don’t pay the ransom.

“If you pay, you’re adding fuel to the business,” he said.

Without backed-up data, most businesses affected by ransomware close up shop in 6 to 12 months, he said.

“They want one billion dollars,” he said, showing a photo of Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” as everyone laughed. “It’s a billion dollar industry.”

Viruses are downloaded from Word, Excel or video files and can seem innocuous. Once your files are encrypted, there’s nothing you can do. If you have been prudently backing up your data, act like nothing happened, he said. Ransomware thieves will often offer a sample decrypted file to prove their code is the cure, he said. Hill cautioned against opening “nasty e-mails,” and said people should pick passwords that consist of 12 random letters and numbers using upper and lower case. “Be cautious of any type of attachment.”

“This business is growing and getting more specific in attacks,” he said.

Some businesses have noticed that upon launching a website with a list of employees, hackers will mimic emails and send one that appears to be internally generated.

“These kinds of attacks happen all the time,” he said.

Ransomware is readily available for purchase.

“And you can conduct commercial espionage,” he joked, advising folks to call and ask someone directly if they sent an email. “Practice good web browsing,” he said.

Reusing the same password over and over is an invitation to trouble, he said, and if you have 35 accounts, have 35 passwords. He also suggested investing in software that stores and protects passwords. Be vigilant against mimicry in which hackers would use G00gle with two zeros, for instance, instead of the proper “Google.” Don’t use names for pets or family members in anything that needs to be kept private and secure . He also suggested free anti-virus software such as Sophos, an up-and-coming company giving away its product to bolster brand awareness.

Next-generation ransomware is in the works, he said, again calling it “very scary.” The ransomware gets into a hard drive via similar vectors as previous generations. He also said the FBI is “starting to make cases” on ransomware and one can report it to the FBI website.


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