How to avoid becoming target of worldwide ransomware attack

New type of cyberthreat has quickly spread to nearly 100 countries

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SAN ANTONIO – A scary new type of cyberthreat has quickly spread to nearly 100 countries, compromising the FedEx system in the U.S. and leaving 16 hospitals in England with locked patient files.

"It will get on a network. It will scan the network for other vulnerable machines and then copy itself onto that computer and then encrypt the hard drive," said John Dickson, a partner with cybersecurity company The Denim Group.

To get your files back, you have to pay at least a $300 fee. It's a scam called ransomware. Dickson said this type of ransomware is new.

"That's a little different than in the past where you had to click on or do something," he said.

The only way to stop the speedy virus is to keep computers updated.

"Make sure those little icons, those little badges that nag you to update things on your Windows devices, you've got to update those. Those are protecting you from the bad guys. If you have the auto update on, you should be covered. That's already happened," Dickson said.

The KSAT 12 News building is filled with computers, so an attack like this would be detrimental. That's why the IT department has been working extra hard. 

"We've been making sure the operating systems are up to date, that the antivirus has all the updates needed and (are) making sure our firewalls are also patched as well," said Frank Harris, with the KSAT 12 IT Department.

Harris said it's a daily job.

"Every day, they have updates that come from these organizations and when something happens, they update it to make sure those viruses don't get into your systems," he said. 

It's a continuous cycle to keep information safe.

If a computer does get infected and there's no backup system, Dickson said the only thing to do to get the files back is pay the ransom. However, that comes with a drawback. Once you pay, you're likely to be put on a list of people who have been exploited and you could be targeted again in the future.

To contact John Dickson with questions, you can find him on Twitter @johnbdickson.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.