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INDIANAPOLIS — Ransomware attacks are on the rise, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The latest numbers show increases across the board from the number of incidents to the amount of money bad actors are demanding to the number of reports made.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity experts say small businesses are being increasingly targeted.

“You are your own IT specialist and a lot of times, especially when you’re first starting out or you’re a smaller mom-and-pop shop. You’re not going to go out and hire an IT guru — you can’t afford it,” emphasized Laura Schafsnitz, public affairs specialist with the Small Business Administration (SBA) Indiana District Office.

Ransomware is when hackers find a way into an employer’s online system and demand money in order to give their information back.

“Basically, they are threatening if you don’t pay they will release data that they have of yours out to the public,” said Gary Brickhouse, chief information security officer with GuidePoint Security.

The FBI’s latest information shows the number of incidents went up 20% in 2020 compared to 2019, but the average amount of money demanded per incident went up about 225%.

“At the end of the day, you have these cybercriminals who want money, and the best way to get that from companies is to gain access to their data files,” Brickhouse explained.

Experts say many of the hackers do release the data back to the company, but that’s because it is in their best interest.

“They do this because they know that if they did not give you your data back, the word would get out pretty quickly, and these companies would not pay the ransom to get your money back,” Brickhouse explained.

Brickhouse said it is likely that a business will run into a ransomware attack at some point.

“We need to understand what the attack is, contain it and make sure it doesn’t get worse, and how do we restore our business,” Brickhouse explained. “Data backup, making sure that you have good data backup. You know how to restore that data and ultimately that you have good communication with your business itself, and if there are customers involved, how do we communicate with them at this time as we’re trying to get this back up and running?”

The SBA knows small business owners handle many roles within their businesses. To make cybersecurity easier, the SBA directs employers to the agency’s website.

Businesses can also visit the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s website for further information about ransomware.