MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – Cyber experts call it 21st century warfare. Large scale ransomware attacks are targeting businesses ranging from oil pipelines to meat processors.
It usually starts with an email.
“If you have a computer, you’re susceptible to it,” said Mike Brady, president and CEO of Cyber Solutions Group.
A link is usually clicked which can allow cyber criminals access to the system. When those criminals then ask for money to release control, it’s called ransomware.
“We get lots of calls. People are concerned. They’re reading the stories, they’re hearing about it,” Brady said.
Over the last month, major ransomware attacks have hit Colonial Pipeline, Cox Media, and meat processor JBS.
Brady, who is based in Millington, said a good virus protector, firewall, and backup can protect you from the effects of ransomware. He said since 99 percent of the attacks come through email. We should question everything before clicking on any link.
“If they come from some foreign country, they’ll leave off certain words or certain letters,” Brady said. “You’ll read it and say there’s no way this came as an official letter from this company.”
Mid-South lawmakers that WMC spoke to said they believe the attacks originate overseas in places like China and Russia.
Republican U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee wants President Biden and his administration to consider filing sanctions on the countries believed to be involved. She also said Biden should postpone his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I would have said let’s hold off on that meeting until we have a commitment from Russia that they are going to step in and stop these attacks,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn said her provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act created a pilot program, allowing National Guard cyber experts to support companies under cyber attack.
Democratic Congressman U.S. Representative Steve Cohen of Memphis plans to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray this week about the attacks during the House Judiciary Committee.
“We’d like to see how [a cyber defense team] should be structured,” Cohen said. “There are a lot of agencies, the Defense Department, Homeland Security, the NSA who might have jurisdiction. [There] should probably be kind of a czar for cyber defense.”
Cohen wants to learn more about how a cyber defense team can help businesses, especially those contracted with the federal government, prevent a ransomware shut down from the start.
Last week, Wray compared ransomware attacks to 9/11.
WMC reached out to all Mid-South members of Congress. A spokesperson for Republican Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee said:
“Senator Hagerty is greatly concerned with the rise in ransomware and cyberattacks that put our national and economic security in serious jeopardy. During a recent Banking Committee hearing, the Senator questioned the CEO of Citigroup regarding how the federal government can better coordinate with the private sector to eliminate cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Greater collaboration, intelligence sharing, and planning between government, private sector entities, and law enforcement is critical to protecting our institutions, and Senator Hagerty is firmly committed to working to that end.”
Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas said:
“The troubling increase in cyberattacks on essential services demonstrates the crucial need to invest in robust tools and resources to defend against these evolving threats to our national security. By supporting development and implementation of stronger cyber protections, we can safeguard Arkansans from damaging risks and unnecessary burdens caused by cyber criminals.”
A team for Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi responded to our email, but said he did not have a comment on the recent ransomware attacks at this time.
A team for Republican U.S. Representative David Kustoff of Shelby County also responded to our request for a comment or interview, but was not able to provide one in time for the story’s deadline.
While Democratic U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson of North Mississippi did not provide a comment for this story, his team said the topic will be up for discussion Wednesday during the House Committee on Homeland Security, which Thompson chairs.
WMC received no responses from the four other Mid-South members of Congress.
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