Ransomware attacks increase by 60%; FBI encourages safe cyber practices

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 3:10 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - As cyber crimes continue to increase throughout the country and the Commonwealth of Virginia, the FBI is reminding residents to be aware of scammers and hackers.

The FBI Richmond bureau held a roundtable discussion with reporters and Virginia’s cyber task force Thursday to bring awareness to safe cyber practices.

Virginia residents and businesses lost $172.8 million to cyber crimes in 2021. FBI agents explained the best thing to do once the crime is committed is to report it quickly.

“Those first few hours after your computer has been compromised are critical to helping us assess the damage,” Special Agent of National Security David Lewis said. “If you report it within the first 24, to first 72 hours, there’s a very good chance we can get your money back.”

The FBI is reporting a 60% increase in ransomware attacks. Virginia residents and businesses are falling victim to phishing emails, domain spoofing and bitcoin scams.

“Cyber security in the threat, it touches everyone at some point. Whether you’re someone’s mom and you’re just trying to Facetime with your grandkids, or you’re a Fortune 100 company,” Lewis said. “It usually starts with an individual operating to try and leverage somebody else.”

But agents explained you don’t have to be a cyber expert to be cyber-smart.

“Having at least good practices of using proper passwords, complex passwords,” Lewis said. “We know everybody hates that because then you forget it and have to reset it, but the reality is a more complex password system is going to keep you safe.”

Other safe cyber practices for businesses and individuals include:

  • Having multi-factor authentication for devices and online accounts.
  • Directing a business point of contact in case of a ransomware attack.
  • Be weary of who you communicate with online.
  • Be aware of romance scams and phony relationships online.
  • Regularly update devices and software.

The special agent in charge of the Richmond FBI office explained reporting scams within the first 72 hours can help you get your money back.

“You’ve got to report quickly to us or on ic3.gov/,” Stanley Meador said. “Get that report in there because if you get that report to us quick enough, we may be able to initiate our financial kill chain process and recover if not all of, some of your money.”

Agents are also reminding businesses there’s no company as discreet about ransomware attacks as the FBI. Anyone who suspects they are part of a cyber crime should report it immediately or call the bureau in Richmond at 804-261-1044.