Updated: 11/04/2016 08:30:02AM
Local firm targets data protection
By GARY ROBERTS
CHARLOTTE COUNTY — Six months ago, a local construction company with just five employees was the unwitting victim of a ransomware attack, where the perpetrators demand money after blocking computer system access. Fortunately, there was limited information compromised, so the cybercriminals were ignored.
Then, the company was attacked again, this time creating calamity, then chaos. The business was locked out of all its data, with a different intruder wanting 352 bitcoins, or more than $200,000. Company officials were told by their information technology consultant not to pay and all the data was lost.
These events led the construction contractor to Zypha Corporation, a local firm that offers a complete virtual computing environment for small- and medium-sized businesses, including layers of cybersecurity.
“You do not have to be in the information business to be hacked. Anyone with a computer is susceptible,” said Jason Wolfe, Director of Sales for the Zypha Corporation, which has its North American headquarters in Murdock. “We tell our clients, IT is not their primary business. It is ours.”
FBI figures for the first three months of this year show $209 million was extorted by cybercriminals using ransomware. Nearly 50 percent of all organizations have been hit with ransomware and 9 out of 10 companies don’t survive a catastrophic data loss, with 43 percent never reopening and 51 percent closing within two years, according to a University of Texas study.
Small businesses present a bigger target because they typically hold more data than the average consumer, and often don’t have adequate preventative measures in place. Last year 33 percent of small businesses suffered a cyber attack from someone outside their business.
Rick Ciglar, Zypha Vice President of Operations, said 93 percent of ransomware attacks arrive through email that may look like a legitimate message and attachment. But when that attachment is opened, a virus is unleashed, encrypting or locking the user’s files. Businesses then must buy an encrypt key to retrieve their own data.
If the computer owner refuses to pay, the personal data also can be sold to a third party.
“These threats are real,” Ciglar said.
Businesses that intermingle their personal and professional computers also are vulnerable on both fronts. A Fort Myers company recently was breached by ransomware, with the cybercriminals asking for $50,000. Again, the ransom was not paid and company records were lost, along with 14 years of family photos.
“We encourage keeping separate business and personal environments. It’s very important not to mix the two,” Zypha CEO Darryl Keys said.
But ransomware is only one challenge to computer security. Cyber attacks are launched by spyware and other types of malware and viruses, with most believed to originate from Russia and Eastern Europe.
Data loss can also result from hard drive failure, human error by accidentally deleting or overwriting, file corruption and Mother Nature’s unpredictability with earthquakes, floods and, in Florida, lightning strikes.
Moreover, hackers can take control of your computer from a remote location, recording every keystroke to obtain personal information and correspondence. They can even access the computer webcam to actually watch their prey.
The cost to business posed by counterattacks and irretrievable data is huge, in lost productivity and IT support. When the IT system goes down, a company’s ability to operate goes down.
Keys said his company moves all customer applications and data to a secure, company-owned private cloud in the Zypha Data Center in Tampa. Simply put, cloud computing is computing based on the internet.
But there are ways for individual companies to reduce the threat to their computer systems.
Installing a firewall, along with antivirus and anti-spyware software, will help. As will using complex and secure passwords. Regardless of whatever steps have been taken to protect your computer, it is critical to copy all files.
“A small percentage of businesses actually back up their systems,” Keys said. “We offer our service so when you plug in, it’s there.”
This article was published by the Charlotte Sun and can be found at http://yoursun.com/sunnews/portcharlotte/11846640-699/story.html.csp