LP Insider has featured many articles on cyber crime, data protection and data corruption. Business giants and the government continue to be the primary targets of criminal hackers. But any business or individual able to pay a ransom to hackers who “hijack” valuable data and hold it hostage can fall victim to ransomware. Ransomware is defined as “a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer or entire system’s data until a sum of money is paid.” Early incidents of ransomware mainly targeted individuals. Perpetrators of this type of cyber crime are now targeting businesses, obviously because businesses are perceived to have more money and more to lose than most individuals. The FBI estimates that ransomware extortion tactics will cost business over $1 billion in losses going forward.
And no business is immune from cyber crime and ransomware, not even the sports industry. NASCAR racing teams constantly face complicated technical challenges to optimize their vehicles for peak performance. But rarely has there been a problem quite like the one Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR) faced earlier this year when they fell victim to the cyber crime of ransomware. Much of their critical data was held hostage. It began in April, when the team’s crew chief noticed some unfamiliar files on his computer. Not thinking much of it, he continued operating as usual, compiling data that teams typically use for races including track data, information from test facilities and personal files. An engineer on the team later noticed a cache of files being uploaded to the team’s Dropbox account and got suspicious that something bad was happening. Sure enough, when the crew chief later accessed his computer, he found that his files were inaccessible. Only one file would open. That file issued instructions to the team to either pay a ransom within 48 hours or lose the files forever.
Three computers were hit by the attack – all caught by TeleCrypt. This Trojan is a particularly nasty piece of ransomware. The TeleCrypt virus was originally built to target gaming-related data, but evolved to the point where it is effective in capturing data from just about any type of file that it can find—Word, PDF, JPEG and others. In CSLFR’s case, the files held hostage included everything pertaining to the racing team. Detailed setups involving their race cars, lists of parts and custom simulations with value in the millions of dollars were encrypted by the virus. The team would be severely crippled without access to the data being held hostage. In an amazing twist, cyber crime didn’t pay much this time. The hackers only demanded $500, payable in bitcoins. The team paid the ransom and got access to their data back.
The unusually small demand in this case is rare, however. The ransom demanded is usually in the millions, if not tens of millions of dollars.
CSLFR immediately pursued outside help and support to protect its valuable data in the future. The team was pointed to an Internet security company fighting cyber crime with a range of products designed to protect computers and smartphones. Using this software, the CSLFR team also rid itself of other computer system infections it didn’t even know it had.
No individual or business is immune to cyber crime. And we know that there are many companies and services available to aid in identifying and correcting existing troubles and preventing future cyber attacks. It behooves every individual and business to be sure they have resources, either internally or contracted, to fully protect their computers and systems from the sophisticated and serious threats posed by criminal hackers. Is your personal computer safe? Is your company’s data security ensured? If you don’t know, find out. And good luck!