Everyone vulnerable to ransomware, experts warn after Madison County pays off hackers

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ANDERSON, Ind. - Important files and documents are slowly coming back online in Madison County after officials paid a ransom to the hackers who held their computer system hostage for days.

Employees at the Sheriff's Department could not find prior reports or court records and were booking people into jail using pencil and paper.

The hackers used ransomware which encrypted thousands of files, making them inaccessible to county employees. Lisa Cannon, Director of the County’s IT Department, said the message from the hackers was very clear.

“Just as you would have a ransom note you see on a drama on TV when someone is kidnapped, there is a ransom note and it is exactly that type of thing,” said Cannon.

On Monday, officials decided to pay the ransom; $28,000 according to The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin.

Employees at Rook Security in downtown Indianapolis say ransomware cases are very common and Madison County should be a wake up call for everyone.

Rook's CTO Mat Gangwer said hacker don't target anyone specifically and everyone is vulnerable.

"They blast out emails to all kinds of people to cast a wide net. They really only need one person to click that link," said Gangwer.

He said paying the ransom as Madison County did is often the quickest way to get through the crisis, but it doesn't have to get that far.

Rook Security encourages municipalities and businesses to invest in the latest antivirus software and strong firewalls. Rook employees will even try to break into their clients' networks to make sure the security systems in place are working.

“People want and need their files. As soon as those go away and they cannot access them, it becomes an issue for them," said Gangwer.

For the average person, Gangwer said, pay attention to the emails and links you're opening and always back up your important files and documents in case you download ransomware. More than likely, those hackers will never be found.

“The hackers and the bad guys always change their tactics so we just have to adapt as well," he said.

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