Indy small business owner urging others to protect against ransomware

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INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis man says the past week has been a crash course in cyber security.

“It’s been a total nightmare,” said Asher Collins. “Never saw it coming. I just never saw it coming.”

Asher Collins is the owner of Big Guy Signs.

He says he had files dating back to 1988 that were all encrypted when his business computers were hit with ransomware.

Collins says it took just two minutes for cyber criminals to take control of ever computer he has.

The owner of Big Guy Signs says he’s always been careful with emails, but still got hit by cyber criminals.

The fallout, he says, has tied his hands and slowed down his business as he works to get all his files back without forking over money.

The cyber criminals demanded $500 to $600 for each computer they infected.

When he posted about his problem on Facebook, a friend told him about another business owner who had to give even more after they paid up, so Collins ignored the ransom request.

Instead, he’s using his backup service Carbonite to slowly get all his work back on his computer. That could take a while, since his computer primarily had artwork stored, which are large files.

“I was thinking, ‘Why would they hit me?’” remembered Collins. “There’s GE and Ford and all these big guys, what would they be coming after me for?”

Mat Gangwer, the Chief Technology Officer for Indianapolis company Rook Security, says it’s no longer unusual for small businesses to fall victim to ransomware.

“When these attackers go about doing this business, they like to cast a wide net, so their main focus is to get as many people as they can in their target,” said Gangwer.

Gangwer says ransomware typically contains links or attachments to harmful sites with malware.

“If it is ever an email that you get from an unknown sender or it looks suspicious at all, the best advice that I can give you is to just not open it and ignore it,” said Gangwer.

Collins says he’s going to be even more careful now about which emails he’s open.

“If I don’t recognize the subject line, you’ll be lucky if I read it,” said Collins. “That’s just one thing I’ve learned. You can’t even trust to open an email now because as soon as you open the email, you’re hit.”

Collins says he’s glad he has a way out without paying the criminals and encourages everyone to have off-site backups for all their computers.

“If it can happen here, why couldn’t it happen at home,” said Collins.

Gangwer says if more people have backups and don’t have to resort to paying, the incentive won’t be there for these ransomware attacks.

“The more people do actually pay these ransoms, it’s just going to make them keep going and doing it more,” said Gangwer. It’s becoming a business. They’re making money on it.”