Aldermen approve hiring IT service company

Last year, the city of Paris became a member an ever-growing worldwide club – the target of a ransomware campaign.

Fortunately, the city did not lose data on the single machine that was hit with the attack, but it brought cyber security to the forefront of issues.

“We did not lose any data because we back up our data every day,” said Lisa Hollingsworth, city superintendent. She said the computer that was attacked was serviced by a vendor and placed back in use.

Afterward, the city tightened security procedures and, just this month, the Board of Aldermen approved the hiring of a technology consultant, Moberly-based Fusion Technologies, to maintain and assist with cyber security, and to provide disaster recovery.

“We were fortunate,” Hollingsworth said.

Ransomware is becoming an epidemic for companies and individuals. Just last week, a Salt River Journal reporter’s personal computer received a ransomware attack. Here is how ransomware works: a hacker gains control of a computer, or a computer network, and places a virus that locks the user from any data. A popup screen appears that demands money in the untraceable internet currency called bitcoins to replace data, and generally demands the money within a certain period of time with a threat to destroy data if the deadline is not met.

On Friday, there was a worldwide attack of malicious software that appeared to start in the United Kingdom and rapidly spread to other nations, including the United States. The count was 75 by the weekend and growing. The attacks disrupted telecommunications, hospital services and slowed computer networks. The Washington Post reported that the attack exploited a software vulnerability that was uncovered by the National Security Agency.

The vulnerable software is produced by Microsoft, which has released a fix but computers remain at risk.

Last year, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 bitcoin ransom to a hacker who seized control of all the hospital’s systems, impacting patient records treatment and surgeries.

According to the FBI, the toll for businesses in the hundreds of millions a year – more than $200 million in the first quarter of 2016. And the toll keeps growing as hackers keep a step ahead of software developers.

Dave Clickner of Fusion Technologies, says the best defense against ransomware is to have strong antivirus software and to backup all data.

“The backup should be separate from your computer so that the data can be restored if something happens,” he said.